A MATURING MUSICAL TALENT – WANDILE MBAMBENI
HE COULD HAVE BEEN AN ESTABLISHED RUGBY PLAYER. IN FACT, WANDILE MBAMBENI, WHO HAILS FROM MTHATHA IN THE EASTERN CAPE, WAS ONCE THE BORDER BULLDOGS SCRUMHALF. BUT INSTEAD, UNLIKE THE REST OF HIS SPORTSLOVING SIBLINGS, HE OPTED TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MUSIC.
His love for the craft of creating music and writing songs only came later in his life when, at the age of 17, his aunt gifted him his very first guitar. Until then, the act of listening to music had played an important role to Mbambeni, but sport was his passion. Once he felt the energy of the guitar in his hands, however, something inside him shifted. This would subsequently change his whole life. A few years later, in December 2013, the self-taught Mbambeni began busking and playing gigs, and he has since launched himself onto the South African music scene as an extremely talented and established singer/songwriter and producer – ditching the rugby field and playing to a whole new rhythm of life.
Mixing rap, electronic collaborations, conversions between his native Xhosa and English, beat-boxing and the ability to stand alone on stage or with his band, this gifted musician is renowned for his smooth Afro-soul sound. His unique stage presence has the ability to completely transport audiences into a world of magic, and his innate ability to tell stories through his unique lyrics creates a spellbinding atmosphere. He has been described as having the “ability to make audiences feel as though something special is happening”, and the way he does this is simple: through pure, unadulterated honesty. “That is what it’s all about,” he explains. “Honesty is the main reason for a safe energy where one is channelled into that deep listening atmosphere. I am in love with this atmosphere.”
Mbambeni’s honesty and ability to write lyrics that resonate with his audiences comes from his ability to immerse himself in moments in life and find inspiration in everything he does. When describing his song-writing process, Mbambeni says: “It’s a moment thing.The moments can happen anywhere – when I’m in the car, long-boarding, taking a walk. I always get the concept of an idea from a very lived-out, real experience, so it’s easy to be honest. It’s story-telling.”
Mbambeni released his first EP, HomeGrown, in September 2014 and was immediately booked for a 35-day tour of Germany. Taking the German public by storm and playing a number of sold-out shows was exactly what the young musician needed to boost his confidence. “The German audiences appreciated my music more than I did, which made me appreciate my music more than anyone else,” he explains. On his return, armed with this wealth of new creative inspiration and energy, Mbambeni went on to release his debut album, Good Intentions, showing the South African public what all the fuss was about. They loved him. He went on to play on a number of radio stations
and to share the stage with the likes of Matthew Mole, Michael Lowman, Howie Combrink, Shortstraw, Prime Circle, Tailor, Majozi, Red Tape Riot, Veranda Panda, Watershed, Al Bairre, Karen Zoid and Francois Van Coke.
In April this year, Mbambeni released his latest EP. Maturation, coproduced by Tich Kangai and Lwazi Mpoko (the latter also recorded, mixed and mastered the EP) was recorded over the course of 2016 at home studios, the SAE Institute Cape Town and Cosher Recording Studios. It is Mbambeni’s first project where he handled the song-writing as well as the production, and it is proving to be more popular than ever with the first single, “Lovers Like You”, voted one of the top 20 songs of 2017 by Texx and the City. “It was cool to express myself beyond the guitar and by implementing other instrumentation. This project has been responsible for my speedy musical growth and understanding,” Mbambeni says. “For this EP, my hunger for growth and maturity in my sound were my two main inspirations. I really wanted to mix the classical music and jazz genres together to blend them into a meaningful, timeless sound for the music on the EP.”
Staying true to his well-known raw sound, combined with meaningful musical melodies, Mbambeni first started writing the music for the EP on his own software and then added lyrics after. He then recorded the songs with a full band before going on to replace the virtual sounds with a more organic, authentic sound.The result? An absolute masterpiece and certainly an indication of Mbambeni’s own maturity in his music. “From singer/songwriter to now being the producer of a project, everything has evolved,” he says. “I matured and my composition took the biggest jump to the top.”
A big dreamer, Mbambeni understands how important vision, execution, precision and authenticity are to creating true magic. His advice for anyone who wants to take the leap and embark on a musical career is simple: “Believe in your craft! Believe in your craft! Believe in your craft!” Aiming to take his authentic sound straight to the top, with no intention to ever look back, Maturation is the way this exceptionally talented musician is going. Which is great news for us!
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