Review | Songlines


Rating: ★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details


Bongeziwe Mabandla


Black Major / Platoon


The story of Southern Africa's ‘contemporary urban folk’ music can be told in five acts: Madala Kunene, Buddy Masango, Vusi Mahlasela, Umanji and now, Bongezizwe Mabandla. The latter's latest is amaXesha (which translates to ‘time’ in isiXhosa) where he once again goes home to his rural Eastern Cape roots while his eyes, arrangements and foresight remain trained on the West. ‘noba bangathini’ is a soothing, well-structured piece that straddles genres from Negro soul to African folk effortlessly. This beauty is not of a rushed nature. ‘thula’ evokes its meaning, which is quietude, or even silence. The arrangement (cellos, violins, concertina and flutes) gives off a sound not so much of humming birds as of a beehive. ‘ndikhale’ and ‘hlala’ are livelier, infused with an up-tempo bouncy beat but overall they add nothing to this musical quilt. That's left to the last track, the third part of a title track triptych: ‘Xesha (iii)’ is not only smart but an inspired move. A glacially paced, meditative instrumental, the song is as gorgeous as it is luminous. It's a wordless prayer evocative of ancestral sounds that are plugged, unplugged and sprinkled over the listener as devotional music without losing its secular openness. This is the stuff of Rumi's poesies.

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