Celebrating 10 years since the release of Bongeziwe Mabandla’s debut, Umlilo

Like so many of his fans throughout the world, we are pausing to take a moment and celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Bongeziwe Mabandla’s debut album, Umlilo. 

Produced by Paolo Chibanga (of 340ml and Tumi And The Volume), who had long seen Bongeziwe’s artistic gifts, and released through Sony in 2012, the 12-track album gave immediate notice of an extraordinary creative talent. Intertwining Xhosa lyrics with traditional music and folk stylings Umlilo sounded familiar but stood out as fresh and unique – and was effortlessly captivating. 

“I will forever be grateful for this body of work that propelled me into the career that I love so much,” says Bongeziwe of the album. 

“The album is about identity. I was much younger when I wrote the album so (it was about) identifying myself – especially in 2012, in the new South African context. It was standing up for all the music that has been done in South Africa, that never really had a chance. It had this stamp of being authentically South African, authentically Xhosa so it was about identity and trying to find one’s self.”

As Bongeziwe told Texx and the City in an interview to mark the anniversary: “I love the album because it has such raw emotion, the kind that’s hard to achieve now that I’m a little older. Listening back to it, I can hear how nervous I was, how my voice quivers, how I don’t articulate words properly.”

Umlilo was selected to be Classic Album of the Week by Apple Music. Timeless and memorable, you can listen to it here.