Mandisa Dlanga, a quiet legend of the South African music industry, has left an indelible mark through her collaborations with a multitude of esteemed musicians.
Her illustrious 40-year music journey has seen her lend her vocal talents, as a backing vocalist, to a diverse array of artists, including the likes of Simply Red, Paul Simon, Jennifer Rush, Johnny Clegg, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Lucky Dube, among many others.
The day after her 70th birthday she releases her debut solo album ‘Siyakha’ (We Are Building) featuring the first single Ndim Lo. ‘Ndim Lo’ is a celebration of Mother Africa – an anthem of pan-African love and Ubuntu. “That’s me – I am the beauty of Africa… They will never sap my strength. Let this river of love overflow and collect all which it touches.”
Siyakha sits in an African Adult Contemporary genre embracing several legacy styles (Mbaqanga, Maskandi, R&B / funk, Kwela) imbuing the music with a strong SA flavour. The lyrics are in isiXhosa, isiZulu, and English.
The ten-track project focuses on contemporary South African social issues – women’s rights, polygamy, traditional belief systems, questions of African identity, Ubuntu, and xenophobia.
Born into a family deeply connected to music, Mandisa’s passion for singing was nurtured from an early age. Hailing from the rolling mountains of Lusikisiki, Mcobothini in the Eastern Cape, she immersed herself in the captivating harmonies of the AmaMpondo people, absorbing the musical tapestry of her community. Mandisa’s artistic endeavours knew no bounds, as she explored various art forms, even venturing into ballroom dancing. In her youth, she entertained partygoers and even triumphed in a beauty pageant.
However, it was her move to Johannesburg in the eventful year of 1976 that propelled her artistic journey to new heights. Under the tutelage of the legendary Gibson Kente, Mandisa ventured into the world of musical theatre, honing her skills and unleashing her boundless potential. This pivotal phase of her career led her to grace the recording studios on an almost daily basis, alongside her colleague Stella Khumalo, as they provided their remarkable backing vocals for esteemed artists, supporting their studio albums.
It was in the mid-1980s that Mandisa’s star truly ascended, as she was invited to join the influential group Savuka (“We Have Arisen”) as the sole female voice in that ensemble. Embarking on extensive tours across South Africa and internationally, Mandisa found herself collaborating with the iconic Johnny Clegg, their powerful voices intertwining to produce hits that resonated deeply with audiences. One such notable tribute was the song “Asimbonanga” (We have not seen him), dedicated to the incarcerated Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. This was a testament to Mandisa’s ability to imbue her performances with immense emotion and cultural significance.
In recognition of her exceptional contributions to the music industry, Mandisa was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Backing Vocalists and Session Musicians Awards (BVSM). This prestigious accolade, conceived by Yvonne Chaka Chaka, honoured Mandisa’s invaluable role, often unheralded but undeniably significant.
Now, in the month of her 70th birthday, Mandisa is poised to release her own solo album, which serves as a heartfelt tribute to the rich tapestry of South African musical history. Infused with the earliest memories of her mother’s melodic exchanges with Oliver Tambo, intertwined with African mythology and juxtaposed with Western wisdom, her songs encapsulate the spirit of a nation. From the tragic tale of Sophiatown’s demise to the profound struggles faced by women and the birth of a powerful movement, Mandisa’s solo album promises to be a profound and resonant musical experience.