Wandile Mbambeni: Collaboration is Key to Creativity

In the run-up to the release of his third EP, Cape Town based acoustic-afro-folk artist Wandile Mbambeni has been lounge-hopping the city with his band. With the idea to bring the music to the people, hosts have been offering their homes to a series of WM Sessions, unplugged, acoustic and secret.

“As musicians we need ears,” says Wandile, settled comfortably in the wood panelled hidden gem which is Neighbourhood on Long Street. “We can’t always rely on people coming to gigs, and if we’re not gigging there’s nowhere to see us except online. So we decided to bring our rehearsals to the people.”

With a Rocking the Daisies Hemp Stage set now firmly under his belt, as well as several solidifying Espresso and Beerhouse performances, Wandile has been active on the grounds of Cape Town’s music scene for some time, although attention has never been hotter than it is now. Moving to Cape Town on a whim almost two years ago has seen his music grow in leaps and bounds. “It was a very spontaneous move – kind of like pick up my bags and go type of thing,” he says with a laugh. In the wake of his first Afrika Burn, a fleeting week in the Mother City and a rousing opening set for Matthew Mole in Port Elizabeth, Wandile took to the road to the Cape and never looked back.

With a brand new EP, Good Intentions freshly recorded on his arrival, Wandile then enrolled to study sound engineering at the SAE institute, which in turn paved the road to the formation of his upcoming Maturation EP.

“That was what put my guitar down. That took me into producing and coming up with my own sound,” he explains. “That’s how the maturity in the music came through – and that in turn led me to getting a band because I wanted to replicate what I was doing live.” The EP was recorded with the involvement of a five-piece band, who have been backing Wandile in the majority of his performances since. “The amount of work which has gone into the EP is about as much as would have gone into an album,” he adds “It’s huge, we’ve got interludes, intros and outros – but in the end we decided to stick to it as an EP.”

While there is no definite release date for the project, a significant amount of hype has built around it, and Wandile already has nebulous plans in the works for a collaborative remake of the EP. “I have this idea – once I’ve released this non-collaborative EP I want to come back to it and get the legends involved – Hugh Masekela, Don Laka – and get them to remake it. Sort of like a tribute to them.”

Ambitious dreams, but what is a life lived full without some wild ambition? In addition to his musically inclined endeavours, Wandile has a keen interest to integrate involvement among all creatives within the Mother City – and the Artist Network Programme is yet another one of his dreams when it comes to launching into the multifaceted scope of the creative industry at large.

“I’m going to open a coffee shop,” he says, his eyes lighting up. “It’s going to be a place for artists – photographers, writers, musicians, designers – where they can hang out and network. That’s the easiest way to collaborate for us I think.” With a deep-seated love for art of all aspects, he is prepared to launch into every facet of it which may boost his music as a whole – from visual art to fashion design, and even to festival organisation. “I’m all about collaboration,” he says with a grin. “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

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