Curiosity saw me at Alliance Française de Harare last night, June 16, 2012, among a full capacity audience who braved the chilly weather. Starting rather nervously, Bongiziwe quickly won the virgin audience who had never listened to his music before.
The richness of his sound, the depth of his lyrics speak of great influences, yet Bongeziwe Mabandla is his own man accelerating towards becoming one great rooted musician before he releases his debut album ‘Umlilo’ in July.
His music speaks to everyday human experiences, more intimate self-introspection into the views held by a young mind like in his song ‘Gunuza’ which talks about a rich man who was revered by many yet he was so evil; this song speaks against envying people without knowing where they are coming from and what values they hold.
Earlier in the day, another Zimbo Jam team member watched part of his rehearsal and said that his voice reminded one of the Swazi singer Bholoja.
One could not help but fall in love with ‘Isizathu’. In his own words Bongeziwe says, “If we realise we are more alike than we are different we would treat each other with respect and tolerate each other more.” The favourite of the audience was the track ‘Freedom’ performed solo by Bongiziwe in a haunting voice accompanied by his acoustic guitar. It is a thought provoking ballad that questions the meaning of freedom; “What is freedom if freedom is not for everyone? Freedom for the farmer, freedom for the factory worker, freedom for everyone.”
When the band played their last song ‘Ntembisweni’, the audience cried for more. Bongisiwe indulged the audience by replaying the first track ‘Wandesaning’.
Zimbabwean musician and poet, Albert Nyathi, who was in the audience joined in on this song to give a verse of his poem ‘I will not speak’. With the whole auditorium, which was by this time full to capacity, on their feet, clapping to rhythm of the parting song, one could easily tell how the music had connected to the Harare audience. Many people who had been attending other events poured in just as the performance ended and were left disappointed.
Given the fact that Bongeziwe and his South African counterpart, bassist Mosebetsi Nzimande, had only one day to rehearse with the rest of their band members for the Zimbabwean tour, local musicians Blessing ‘Legend’ Chimanga on drums and Clive Mono Mukundu on lead guitar the performance was amazing.
The band travels to the City of Kings today to perform at Alliance Française de Bulawayo.
After the show Mabandla had a coterie of female fans ask him for a few extra songs. He gladly obliged in the welcoming warmth of the Alliance Francaise library as other guests stood by sipping drinks and chatting merrily away.
Comments from the audience about the show were all positive. “I don’t understand any of the words that he is singing, but his music, the instrument of his voice and the sound he makes- it’s like I could put that music on in my house every day. There is joy, elation, pain, I love it,” said massage parlour owner, Sherrie Watson.
“Absolutely pleasant show and I have to say that the Zimbabweans gave an amazing performance, particularly Blessing, the drummer. He is ready for the world stage,” commented the European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr. Aldo Dell’Ariccia.
“I was saying to my friend that when I was watching that show I was so happy. I just felt this joy in my heart because you have got this beautiful groove that he plays and then even though I don’t understand Xhosa you can tell that lyrically he’s very poetic and he’s got this sublime voice. It’s so beautiful, said Zimbabean musician Netsayi Chingwendere.
Commenting on the response to the show Mabandla said he was thrilled. “The people here really appreciate our music and that’s so wonderful,” he said.
Bulawayo, this is not a show to be missed.