I first met Bongeziwe Mabandla in 2017 he’s intrigued me ever since. His music is not like anything I have ever heard. It’s hypnotic. It’s got an ancient tribal Xhosa undercurrent but also completely fresh and modern. Mesmerising. He has created something we all dream of doing, something completely new. The music people call it Afro-Folk, I just like it on repeat. If you’re new to his music, listen to Bawo Bam first (ft. Spoek Mathambo) or watch the music video – it won the best music video at the Capital City Black Music Festival in Austin, Texas.
And even though he has achieved so much, he is still the same. Likeable, easy to talk to. Refreshingly himself. We were lucky enough to photograph Bongeziwe’s apartment before he makes the move to his new home in Newtown. This is his world off the stage, behind the scenes. Where the day to day happens. The place where he rests, spends time with friends and writes his music. Take a walk with us through the artist’s Yeoville home.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARYKE BURGER.
Trinity Hall is in the Jozi suburb of Yeoville, and reading into it’s history I was surprised to find out that it’s been a suburb since 1890. The other crazy fact is that and was initially marketed as a ‘sanatarium for the rich’ because it was built up on a ridge with purer air, looking down over the dirty smoke-filled mining town that had sprung from the bushveld.
Yeoville has shed many skins through the years – in the 1970’s it was a mainly Jewish area with synagogues and Jewish delicatessens. By the late 70’s the now legendary Rockey street was transformed from a quiet community street serving the local residents to an internationally-known cultural centre with restaurants, jazz bars, bookshops, arts and crafts outlets, trendy clothing outlets, photography studios and record shops. On the down side, drug dealers and a criminal element also moved into the area, taking advantage of the opportunities arising out of the almost 24-hour buzz of activity in the street. By the 80’s it became something of a liberated zone as black and white met and ate and listened to music together in defiance of prevailing apartheid laws.
Before his move to Jozi, Bongeziwe grew up in Eastern Cape in Tsolo, outside Mtata – for the first 8 years of his life. “My brother grew up with my granny, so it was mostly me and my mom. Music was part of everyday life and I was always secretly writing songs.” After this time he attended boarding school in Lady Grey, at an arts academy.
The apartment is enormous – with a roomy balcony and those big views of Joburg. The floors are solid parquet, built like they used to in the 50’s, before developers were trying to cram 100 units into a shoe box. And check out that original built in heater! The framed photograph of a young girl in school uniform in the background is by artist Thabiso Sekgala
A come-home-from-touring-australia-flop-down sofa.
Drinks trolley, R2D2 from Stokperd
The bathroom is my absolute favourite part of the apartment. Millennial pink tiles, straight back out of the 50’s
And the baby blue shower and crushed tile floor to match!
Red-tipped grasshoppers, a gift from Scott from Dope store
Kitchen cupboard staples…
The photograph below is by artist Mohau Modisakeng
He got his first big break when he met guys from 340ml ‘They really inspired me. I met the drummer and told him I have a song I’m writing, and he was like – come and see me. But he also said he’s not going to do it for free, but luckily I was working on Generations at the time (a small cameo role) so I had money to pay. The song Isizathu was the first song and my big break. They introduced me to industry and to Sony – who ended up buying the album’.
Recent and upcoming international tour dates:
Q & A’s:
Musical influences: Tracy Chapman, Simphiwe Dana, Bongo Muffin, The Fugees, Oliver Tukuzi
Personal style: Really simple, but I like to look like I’ve made an effort!
Have you ever had your heart broken: Yes! My new album is about love and relationships, and sadly I’ve had my heart broken more than once.
If you won recent R230m lotto jackpot money, what would you do: enhance my music career, maybe shoot some cool music videos
What do you love about Yeoville: I like the quietness, the feeling of different cultures in one place.
Biggest lesson learned while travelling: The world is big. When you make art, you must open yourself up to the rest of the world.
How does your family feel about your success: I come from a small family. My mom is very proud, very proud, they made a lot of sacrifices for me and it’s finally coming together
What does home mean to you: A sense of belonging, and comfort. Do you feel at home in Jhb? Yes I miss it when I’m not here. I love the city.
Do you go back to Eastern Cape a lot? Yes. I love it, but I’ve definitely transitioned into a city guy.