Opinion Review

Wandile Mbambeni: Kwakumnandi

Off the back of three EPs and a move to Joburg, Wandile Mbambeni has just dropped his debut full length album. The Eastern Cape born acoustic-soul musician pin points a subtle line between radio-esque soul melodies and ingrained African influence, in increasingly evident nods to his isiXhosa roots.

The initial half of the album finds its feet within easy, stripped down soul territory. Singular guitar lines pivot the foundation of ‘Anyway’ and ‘Don’t Know’, as off-kilter beats introduce a subtle, almost hip-hop element into the mix.

Textured percussion filters through the Xhosa leanings of ‘Feelings Alone’, while ‘Kwakumnandi’ continues the cruising pace set by its predecessors in a nostalgia-driven sentiment to the good times gone by – channeling the thematic vein which underpins the album: a sentimental reflection on the good times, as well as a reminder to live fully in the present.

Bracketed by collaborations with Bongiziwe Mbandla and Shekhinah, this in an album with feelers all over the chart. Delicious African textures dig their heels in as ‘Nanamhlanje’ rolls around, while ‘Sondela’ serves as a palate cleansing interlude peppered in radio static and hip-hop tendencies.

Traditional a capella roots ‘Marabi’ firmly in the homeland, while ‘Our Lives Matter’, featuring Bongiziwe Mbandla, is a powerful, raw, and richly textured navigation of the still prevalent racial tensions within our country. ‘Lithemba’ follows suit with a live recorded earthy dynamic as this a carefully curated offering unfurls, exploring easy, radio-friendly aspects and powerfully moving odes to African culture alike.

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Listen to the album on Apple Music.