Dear diary: A tale of love
Like flipping through the pages of a compelling book, both heartwarming and heart-rending, Bongeziwe Mabandla’s newly released third album, Iimini, offers a tale of love from beginning to end.
Except, this is not just any book. It is the singer’s personal journal.
“The album starts off with meeting someone and how feelings evolve to love, and then the pain and heartache of being with and without someone,” Mabandla says.
Iimini is the isiXhosa term for “days”.
In linear style, Mabandla walks the listener through his experience with a romantic relationship, starting the track list with Mini Esadibana Ngayo (The Day We Met) sparking the listener’s interest for the rest of the story.
The intention was to get listeners to consume the content from start to end without skipping a song, Mabandla said.
“Whenever I create music, the first thing I do is figure out what is occupying my mind and what is happening in my life.
“Since Iimini is such a big project I had to, sort of, mind map it and look at the different stages of the relationship I want to write about, and the best place to start is the beginning.”
The Tsolo folk singer said most of the song had originated as diary entries during the relationship.
“The album is about a specific relationship and it wasn’t initially song but things I had written in diary entry form. I only started thinking about turning the content into music towards the end of the relationship, when we started having problems,” he said.
Unfiltered and authentic in his approach, Mabandla details his moments of vulnerability, loneliness and desperation to save the relationship, even at wits’ end.
He had to revisit his journal to give the album the sincerity and authenticity his journal carried, he said.
Although based on his personal experiences, the singer said, some of the songs have a double meaning and are open to different interpretations.
One such song is Zange (Never), the sixth track of the album.
“I wrote Zange about falling in love but it can also be a matter of writing about wanting a kind of love you never had,” he said.
The singer’s feelings are as clear as day on other songs, like Bambelela Kum (Hold On To Me).
“When I wrote Bambelela, I already knew the break-up was coming but I felt so connected to the person I was with and what I was trying to say is that we understand each other’s minds so well, where will we ever get other partners who will understand us as we do each other if we let go of this?
“There’s a line that says “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl”, which partly sums up my feelings at the time.”
Mabandla said he had written Bambelela while on a flight to Spain when he was consumed by thoughts about his trembling relationship.
“When I listen to this song I still remember clouds from that day, the circular motion the plane made before landing and how invested I was in finding ways to convince this person of how much I loved them,” he said.
Iimini was released on March 27 — the first day of the national lockdown in SA due to Covid-19 — inspiring listeners to take the time to introspect and use the music as a mirror.
“The album is about love but it’s also about loneliness and what I have ultimately learnt from it is that you can’t really extend the magic of love if you don’t have it within yourself.
“I hope it makes everyone travel inwards, into themselves and honestly deal with their feelings about themselves and those around them,” Mabandla said.
Iimini rapidly climbed up local and international music charts from the day of its release, receiving critical acclaim from Mabandla’s broad fan base within and beyond the borders of Africa, thanks to his distinctive sound.
Mabandla describes his sound as soul music with a folk influence.
Iimini is available on physical and digital music platforms.
- Iimini was produced by Tiago Correira-Paulo and released through London label Platoon. The album cover is by Eastern Cape photographer Lidudumalingani Mqombothi.