Mandela—the acclaimed Kenyan singer and performer best known for his role as Sarabi band’s lead vocalist has now embarked on a solo music career. With the double release of brand new singles: “Fantastic Love” and “Hakuna Matata”, Mandela has officially launched his new brand as one of East Africa’s most talented songwriters and live performers. Speaking on his new direction, Mandela says, “I am still the same Mandela but a bit wiser and matured. Nothing has changed. However, people should expect a new energy from me.”
Kenyan–born singer, songwriter and musician, Prince Ambasa Mandela, a.k.a Mandela is one of Africa’s best live-performing artistes. To date, Mandela has over 10 years’ experience working as a singer, songwriter and performing artiste. Mandela’s music can be described as real African fusion—a blend of traditional East African rhythms alongside Benga, fused with Afro beat, Jazz and a dash of Reggae. Mandela’s ‘ONA SASA’ EP falls back on love as a spiritual level and will reunite Mandela with his fans on a personal level, avoiding any discrimination. He says that during the making of his new music he was inspired by observing the daily happenings around him.
As the dynamic and talented lead singer of Sarabi, Mandela wrote and composed the majority of their songs. His musical ability saw Sarabi become one of East Africa’s most popular live bands. In 2015, the group completed a successful summer tour in Europe, performed at Africa Oye Festival in Liverpool and WOMEX in Budapest, and delighted crowds of 20,000 plus people at the Roskilde festival in Denmark. Mandela then returned to Africa, ending the year on a high at the Karibu Music Festival in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Mandela has performed at Sauti Za Busara Festival in Zanzibar, Selam Festival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Bayimba International Festival in Kampala, Uganda, DOADOA cultural market in Jinja, Uganda, Tanzania’s East Africa Vibes Concert hosted by Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA), and Wikiendi Live at Nafasi Art Space, in Dar Es Salaam.
Tell us about yourself
I am a father. I am a designer, an artist, singer song writer and a teacher. I teach performing arts and do workshops across East Africa. I’m a Creative.
People in your field that you admire
In our field of music, I admire our local artists from the likes of Sauti Sol, Nyashinski, Eric Wainaina, Susan Owino and The Youth’s Camp Mula. And of course Meja, I just love his creativity with his lyrics and video.
What’s your perspective on the creative industry?
I think it is a powerful industry that is always changing. I really trust in collaborative works and having a good social life where artists can really meet and socialize and be creative together just to know each other. It’s a powerful place of powerful people and I’m glad to be a part of it.
Do you think that there are enough youth opportunities?
Well, I believe there are youth opportunities. I just don’t think enough has communicated out to the youths for them to know of their existence. If there are present, a good communication structure where youths can get to learn of these opportunities needs to be set up. But it is also up to the youth to push themselves and be very active in these spaces. For me, when I was younger, I had the opportunity to be under MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association) of which there was the Arts and Culture program within. That’s where I grew up musically- artistically.
What needs to be done to get Kenyan youths interested into the local brands?
It’s upon the person, the artist, to push themselves. To make themselves visible. You have to wake up and do the things that will cause Kenyans to see you. For example, Kenyan’s are very much in technology. We are people of social media. We’re people who look things up- anything interesting and interesting stuff start from your way of life, how you dress- find a style of your own or something. Stand out. Kenyans love that something that is unique, of its own kind because we know so much that if you fake it, we’ll know immediately. It is important to know what you really want portray and stick to it.
How do you keep up with industry trends?
I just pop in and out of places and get to see who is here and there and what’s happening. I like to hang out with some artists in the industry and get to know them. I like to travel across Tanzania and Kenya to get to see what’s new, studios, new production and sounds, and the hottest producer. That’s how I keep up.
Renowned for his unique and powerful voice, Mandela is out to bring out consciousness and art through his music and high-energy performances. His vocal abilities and stage presence has already won him many fans in Africa and abroad. For several years, he has been on a journey to self-realization—what influenced his decision to relocate to Tanzania, where he teamed up with Humphrey Ndomboka (Tanzanian based Zimbabwean producer) to work on his forthcoming EP set for release later this year. He now operated in between the entertainment industries of Kenya and Tanzania.
Styled by Ojwa Styling
Photography by Ptech Photography