Bongeziwe Mabandla

Bongeziwe Mabandla’s life took a turn for the better after a chance encounter with 340ml drummer Paulo Chibanga at a Melville convenience store. At the time, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter had an acting gig on Generations but it wasn’t his thing and he wanted to break into music. So, with Chibanga as his guiding hand, the Eastern Cape born musician set about recording his debut EP, Umlilo. Fusing traditional African and folk sounds, Umlilo netted the falsetto singer a nomination for a Radio Internationale Discoveries Award in 2011 — the first South African to be nominated — and he finished as runner-up. The success of the EP also ensured that Sony Music South Africa came knocking. He signed with the label and released his first full-length album, also titled Umlilo, to a chorus of high praise. Rolling Stone (SA) compared him to visionaries such as Busi Mhlongo, Vusi Mahlasela and Tracy Chapman and the album notched up two MTN South African Music Awards. — Bongani Kona