Editors' Notes On iimini, Bongeziwe Mabandla charts the path of a relationship with as much flux as his musical journey. He and producer Tiago Correia-Paulo fuse folk and electronic music, and traditional sounds with experimental inclinations. “I really found the making of this album such a beautiful experience because everything that comes into an album is a moment,” he tells Apple Music. “With my previous work I felt like a lot of my subject matter was very serious so I wanted to do something totally different, to hit a subject that was lighter. I wanted people to know that I'm not one dimensional and don't think in one way. My previous album was about spirituality and about God so I decided to write this whole album about a relationship and love.” Throughout, he deftly weds the experience of living in moments with the craft of capturing them.
Here, Bongeziwe explains the 12 tales that form iimini’s story.
mini esadibana ngayo (#001)
“The day we met. This song is a ‘once upon a time’ type of thing. It's the first day that you meet somebody and I wanted to kind of open the story. It’s a true story: all the work I write is always from true experiences in some way. The lyrics go ‘I was always alone watching others walk, not knowing where my heart is. I didn’t know true feeling before, till I met you.’”
“I actually wrote this first and then joined the intro into it. I worked backwards. The music I make is soul music, I always want it to have a lot of feeling so it’s been an interesting experimental phase. It’s something I was really opposed to in the beginning, like ‘I don't wanna dilute my sound and who I am.’ I like to take advice sometimes and I met the right person who understood my music and what I was trying to do, and we’re working in a way where that soul element is not lost.”
“This is kind of like a break-up song and I was influenced by the song ‘Down On My Knees’ by Ayo. It's really one of those songs where you’re left by your lover but it’s not like ‘I’m gonna survive.’ It’s when you completely say all the wrong things to someone who’s gonna leave you, things you’ll regret like ‘I’m gonna die without you.’ It’s pathetically asking someone to stay with you—that’s the word I'm looking for.”
“We had a reference of the kind of track we wanted to do and tried out different things in the studio—almost like a James Blake kind of vibe with my voice. It’s like when you’ve invited somebody into your life and they have to see your dysfunction. Its really telling somebody ‘I’ve actually been through a lot and I’ve had things happen to me,’ but it’s also saying “If you say you love me, I need you to love me in a big, deep and serious way.”
“‘Zange’ is about how love changes you and finally having the courage to tell someone how you feel. It's about that returned love and how it feels on the body. It’s really the healing element in life: being loved in return.”
“I placed dates to kind of inform me of the story a bit—when certain things happened. But the songs didn't quite work out like that.”
“‘Khangela’ is actually a song about loneliness and it’s written about all the things I’ve done while trying to look for love... the regrets and many mistakes I’ve gone through in the name of looking. This song is definitely my most revealing. I had moments like that with this album, like ‘Are you sure you wanna write this, should you not hold back on revealing yourself?’ I had to overcome certain things like that while writing this album. If you lack a certain kind of love you’re kind of obsessed with trying to find it. Rejection breeds obsession and it’s about that.”
“I did a lot of experimenting on this song. The imagination of this was ‘How would it feel live?’ So I wanted to have that (call and response) interaction with an audience.”
“This one is based on a fight. I based it around Joburg so the places I sing about are actual places. I just wanted to write about the dysfunctional side of love. It’s about giving someone a second chance, who just can’t seem to treat you right. Sometimes the people you love are the people that hurt you the most or that you hurt the most. I think because this album is about love, my singing choices are very much Xhosa R&B-ish, very in-your-feels and I thought having Son Little made that R&B vibe come out even more.”
bambelela kum (4.6.18)
“This is a very simple song and I think that’s the beauty of it... it’s not poetic just literal. I think it’s my favourite song on the album, I really love it. It’s so short ‘cause it was our last day and we had 30 minutes in studio. The whole reason I wrote the song was seeing a lot of people who love each other not seem to make it work. I’ve sometimes not made it work with people that I really cared about and loved. It’s really about having tolerance for someone. It’s written when a relationship is basically finished and we’re trying to remember why we got together in the first place.”
“‘Isiphelo’ really developed on the road. The band started playing it and we worked on the idea. By the time we officially got to record it we had a certain idea of what we wanted to do already. We did a lot of things on tour because Tiago is also in my band so there’s stuff we did in Paris and Germany. I always believe that everything you hear influences you in a way, even though you’re not very conscious of it. I do think the different places, and how we made it sort of on the road meant I had to be creative in where I write and how I write.”
“Basically this is one song with ‘Isiphelo,’ I was repeating some things... the most important parts of the album. Through all those experiences the connection will always be there, even though we’re not physically together. It's the conclusion of it all, ‘I can never stop loving you.’”