Bongeziwe Mabandla’s cyclical iimini album is forward-thinking African artistry

It’s a rare thing to come across music which encapsulates a culture and country with equal parts forward-thinking and traditional influence. Bongeziwe Mabandla has a way of modernising and moving a rooted African sound into something else entirely.

His latest and third album iimini (“days”) is a 12-track cohesive journey of an offering which moves through a love story from beginning to end, with clarified and candid eclecticism. “[The album is] about the time we spent together and the days that we loved each other. It’s about looking back,” he explains.

What comes across this time around is something far more experimental than what we first came to know as Bongeziwe Mabandla. Layered isiXhosa vocals collide with staggered beats and textured synths. “mini esabibana ngayo” (“the first day we met”) kicks things off with feather-light vocals and earthy, honey tones – spilling straight into “masiziyekelele” and its Afro-pop beat which cuts through the subtlety.

Fleshed out right to the edges, the album sees Mabandla probing at previously unexplored tangents. From the hollow rhythm beat and orchestral swells of “salanabani”, to the heady beat drops of “ndanele”, “jikeleza” and “bambelela kum”. Things even get fragile and emotive come “khangela” and “isphelo”.

It’s textured and deft, carefully crafted and wily – a wholly immersive listening experience.