Throwing Bones with Digital Sangoma

Interview by Nick Pagemat

Mandisi Mafu, formerly known as Digital Sangoma, is an alternative music artist. Digital Sangoma is known for curating a new sound which fuses Electronic soul and African tribal sounds, resulting in a transcendence of echoing vocals, acoustic guitars, and mallets piercing through the ear of a listener when invited to Digital Sangoma’s sacred space of music. Today we have the pleasure to sit down with him and have a quick chat about his music.

Nick: Hi, Mandisi, how are you doing? How are you stepping into the new year?

Mandisi: Hello Nick, thank you for having me, the new year has been great. I’m in a good space.

Nick: Firstly, the creativity behind the name “Digital Sangoma” is a hard one to resist not asking about. What inspired the name?

Mandisi: The name is one I got from a friend years ago, it was never calculated. I was fascinated with it, and at the time I was experimenting with up-tempo sounds fused with electronic music.

Nick: Your sound may be traced back to the likes of legendary Jabu Khanyile in terms of your vocal execution, the smooth texture and reverb, yet the electronic instrumentals cultivate a new wave of tribal sounds. Take us through the process of how you create your music and how you’ve managed to create such a specific sound?

Mandisi: Thank you for this beautiful compliment. I like to think that I create music based on what I feel, and I try my best to be as honest as possible. Most of my music starts with a chord progression, followed by rhythm section then vocal. I spend a lot of time recording vocals, trying to express whatever emotion I’m going through. 

Nick: Growing up in a segregated country at the time and knowing well the struggles of artists having to code certain messages into their music, how has that influenced you in terms of music and has music always been your bread and butter?

Mandisi: I’ve never thought of it in that way, my music has been always about my journey and personal experiences. I grew up in a village, and my foundation and understanding of life come from there. At the moment, music is not my bread and butter, I’m working towards that. I have a 9 to 5 which gives me the privilege to create from a sober, and honest place, without the pressure of making money. 

Don’t get me wrong making money is the goal, but I’m rather going to play the long game. I have created a space where I dictate the pace, and that for me is freedom. My job has enabled me to develop my true voice as an artist, essentially it has given me leverage and full ownership.

Nick: You have recently released an EP titled “Recall”. Briefly tell us about the project and how it’s currently doing so far.

Mandisi: Yes, I have released an EP titled Recall. This EP is an opportunity to re-introduce my music to people who have recently come across it. I have recollected, reproduced, and reimagined some of my favorite songs, which I have released over the past few months, giving them a new feel, or facelift. This is also a way to express gratitude to everyone for their support and love.

The project is doing really well and growing every day.

Nick: Besides music, what are your biggest interests in life and how are you balancing them?

Mandisi: Family, spending time with people I love, and becoming the best version of myself, so I can be good to others too. 

Nick: As an alternative music artist, I believe it is a slowly recognized genre in South Africa. How is the reception towards your music when in a space dominated by popular genres?

Mandisi: It’s been surreal, and the reception has been overwhelming. I am truly grateful for the gift of music and especially thankful to everyone who’s listening and supporting my music.

Nick: Digital Sangoma is a huge brand paving the way for a lot of other interesting and creative artists. What can we expect from the brand in 2022?

Mandisi: Thank you, although I don’t consider myself as a brand. I’m looking forward to releasing more music, putting together more sold-out shows. 2022 is all about continuing where we left off, sharing more of myself with the world. 

Nick: Thank you so much for joining us at Odd Magazine. I believe your music is sending tons of LETTERS out there with beautiful messages. We would like to wish you all the best and thank you for taking your time to have a chat with us.

Mandisi: Thank you so much, it’s been an absolute pleasure.