Bongeziwe Mabandla’s fourth studio album expands on the theme of love which he explored in his third, 2020’s iimini. “This album is almost like a continuation of that album,” Mabandla tells Apple Music. “I explore the ongoing story of love and finding a soulmate and being in love—and also the heartache that comes with that.” amaXesha is the third album on which Mabandla enlists veteran producer Tiago Correia-Paulo. “I think we are getting to know each other more and more,” Correia-Paulo explains. “He trusts in my decisions more and more. And I trust his decisions in terms of lyrics. We have less and less creative arguments.” Below, the artist and producer break down key songs from amaXesha. “sisahleleleni (i)” Bongeziwe Mabandla: “I had had a conversation with somebody about a particular lady who had gone into this heavy yoga session, and before she went into the session, they said, ‘If you find this too hectic, there’s the door.’ She stayed through the class, doing all the difficult poses, and it was quite a hectic process for her. When she was finished, she asked, ‘Why did I put myself through this when there was the door?’ And I found that story so relatable. It’s the same with relationships. Sometimes we stay in crazy circumstances as though there is no way of getting out. It’s been a sort of theme in my life. Not necessarily relationships, but in situations where there’s the option to get out, but you feel obliged to stay in something toxic.” “sisahleleleni (ii)” Tiago Correia-Paulo: “It started as a remix, and I sped up the vocals and the main keyboard. I think it was because of the position of his voice and those keys that go a little bit faster, I felt like there’s something here that could be faster.” “ukuthanda wena” BM: “That song was written about a relationship I was in, and I felt badly cheated in that situation. Sometimes people think a relationship just needs love, but sometimes it requires understanding and tolerance much more than just the love.” “noba bangathini” BM: “‘noba bangathini’ is probably one of my favourite songs on the album because it deals with what the album is about: giving love a second chance. And I love the title, which means ‘No matter what people say’. It’s about forgetting logic and just following your heart, like when you get back with somebody and there’s all these voices like, ‘Are you sure? I think this is a mistake’. But it’s about saying, ‘Forget everyone, what does my heart say?’” “hlala” BM: “That was a song that Tiago had brought to me. It really reminded me of the Coldplay song ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’. I love that song, so I tried to do something similar. This is one of the more dense, upbeat songs on the album, but in terms of lyrics, it’s about reassuring somebody that you want them around. Even though things are complex or difficult, it’s about convincing somebody to stay.” “ndikhale” BM: “That was a very, very difficult song. I was in France during the lockdown, and I had received this really terrible call. I was absolutely shattered. I knew I had to write a song about the experience. I thought it was going to be a super sad, dark song, almost acoustic and bare. I thought it would be very similar to ‘khangela’. But then the song ended up being full of drums and very happy.” TCP: “The song has opposing forces. It was the beginning of the celebration of coming out of COVID. The instrumental part came from this celebration, this upliftment. It’s a very uplifting song, very drum-based.” “thula” BM: “This is my most personal song on the album. I think with each album, there’s one song I have to risk allowing people in. I did that with my previous album with ‘khangela’. ‘thula’ is really a song about my relationship with my mother. I grew up very close to my mother and recently we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. The musical idea had come from a voice clip my mother had sent me singing, and I just liked it. I shared it with my manager and Tiago, and my manager was like, ‘We have to use this on the album.’ So, it started from there, and then I was like, ‘How do I use this? And how do I take this idea into song?’ Then the idea of really speaking about the intimate parts of my relationship with my mother came. It was a very difficult song to write.” “soze” BM: “One of my favourite songs on the album. I based it on a love that I felt very deeply at that moment. I think I could tell that things were getting a bit difficult. So, even though it’s a love song, it’s almost got a way of seeing the love as a memory already. Because it says, ‘Soze ndikulibale’, meaning, ‘I will never forget you’. But it also made me think about time. It’s a love song, but it has an element of understanding that life passes and we move over to the other side. It was about the thought of that even when I’m no longer on this earth, the significance of the connection and the time that we spent together is forever.” “hamba” BM: “I was explaining how difficult it is to end things, and to say to someone, ‘I feel like this is no longer working for me.’ The kind of emotions that it brings, I say in the song, I ask myself a thousand questions, but at the end of the day, I have to go. As much as I love love, I understand the importance of self-love. This album is about love and relationship, but ultimately the most important relationship I have is with myself.” “ubukho bakho” BM: “This song is about the love I have for people in my life in general. It reminded me of my mom; it reminded me of some of my friends. It’s really a song about giving gratitude for someone existing. ‘Ubukho bakho’ means ‘your existence’.”

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