Bongeziwe’s New Body of Work, amaXesha, Shows How Love Can Change You Over Time.

May 5, 2023

One of my absolute favorite artists Bongeziwe Mabandla releases his fourth album amaXesha (the Times), a follow-up to his critically acclaimed iimini. amaXesha, continues where iimini left off, exploring the themes of self-love, healing, relationships, and how they change you as a person over time. This new body of work firmly confirmed Bongeziwe as a key artist in the Black Alternative scene which is finding an audience at home in South Africa and right across the world.

The 14-track album is once again produced within the intimate creative collaboration that Mabandla has forged with composer, instrumentalist, and producer Tiago Correia-Paulo. In creating the music for amaXesha (“The Times”), Mabandla and Correia-Paulo made a conscious move away from the central creative pulse of the artist’s previous three records, which was located in the simplicity of Mabandla’s vocals and his acoustic guitar, with scant need for amplification. Throughout amaXesha, the music remains intrinsically rooted in the traditional Xhosa folk music that Mabandla heard growing up in Tsolo in the Eastern Cape but is now imprinted with multiple flavours – among them soul, R&B, jazz, pop, and a significant amount of electronica.

Already singles “ndikhale”, “noba bangathini”,  “ukuthanda wena” have given a powerful indication of amaXesha’s sonic landscape – and Mabandla’s subject matter this time around: the relationships we have with our lovers, our family, our friends and, ultimately, with ourselves.

We sat down with Mabandla to talk about his new work and how he has changed over the past couple of years.

Congratulations on creating such a beautiful and honest work that is amaXesha. Listening to this, it feels like a continuation from Iimini, can you share how the process was different between the two projects?

Thank you very much. It is a continuation from iimini the process was to write about what happens when you decided to give love a second chance so it’s about healing, forgiveness, and moving forward. The process was a lot harder than iimini mainly because of all the restrictions from covid and lockdown. We had to do parts of the album remotely which brought challenges of their own, we also had to record while touring as well which made the workload a lot harder.

Can you talk about some of the themes explored in amaXesha, and how they relate to your personal experiences and perspectives?

There is obviously a theme of love and connection and for this, I had to dig into my own experiences, I wanted to create songs about myself that could be relatable to everyone. There are other themes that came up like time ( which is why the title means times) memory and self-love. It became evident as much as this was an album about relationships that it was about the self which is the strongest relationship.

What would you say was the biggest “takeaway” (learning) moment from this new project?

I would say honestly in songs. I think it’s really important to write about things that are very real to you. I feel every song that came from a real experience was so special Sisahleleleni is one of those songs I feel you can hear that I understand exactly what I’m singing about. I think understanding that everything starts with the self, you cannot love truly if you still struggling with the self.

You described amaXesha as an album that depicts how love changes people through time. How would you describe a relationship that changed you the most, and is it referenced on this new album?

Love can change you for sure I think having someone mirror your life so closely is always a learning curve. I think taking time to know someone always reveals a lot about who you truly are. I would say all my relationships have changed me whether good or bad. I always learn sometime about the human experience and how people truly are, I would say each relationship I have ever had has opened my eyes to see things differently about life.

Lastly, what are your hopes for the album’s impact both in South Africa and beyond?

All I want right now is to be an international artist I know that if I expose my work to as many people as possible it could happen for me, so that my focus and goals for the album.