Odwa Bongo isn’t your average performer. This Cape Town-based vocalist and uHadi player isn’t just creating music; he’s weaving tapestries of emotion, aiming to heal and connect with his audiences through the deeply emotive power of his craft. Blending contemporary sounds with the rich traditions of isiXhosa music, Bongo’s powerful vocals and the resonating rhythms of the uHadi create a space for exploration, urging listeners to confront their feelings and embrace the journey of healing.

Bongo’s feature in Big Little Concepts is a testament to this artistic mission. Witnessing the raw honesty he pours into his performance, it’s clear that Bongo is an artist driven by a deep purpose. In the following Q&A, we delve into Bongo’s musical origin story, his experience with Big Little Concepts, and his hopes for the future, both for himself and the vibrant Cape Town music scene.

Q: Tell us about the origin story of your musical career. Was there a defining moment, a love for a specific genre, or just a spontaneous jam session that sparked it all?

A: I grew up in church singing gospel music. I loved singing everywhere, from the shower to my bedroom, and explored music through hymns and imagining myself leading the church choir. Later, jazz and classical training helped shape my voice, but African music always called to me. Hearing Xhosa music transported me, and I felt a connection to my roots attending traditional ceremonies. Witnessing these ceremonies becoming scarce fueled my desire to preserve this beautiful music, and that’s how my career began. I couldn’t let my culture and music disappear.

Q: How did it feel rocking out in the iconic Concept Records studio? Did the environment inspire anything unexpected in your performance?

A: I’ve been to Concept Records before, and it’s a friendly and inspiring space. This specific performance felt surprisingly honest and raw, which I wouldn’t have expected in a studio setting. Usually, that feeling comes from outdoor locations. The experience speaks to the purity of the space and the amazing team there.

Q: We saw a glimpse of your musical magic captured in Big Little Concepts. What message or vibe did you hope to convey through your performance?

A: Healing. We constantly seek healing, but there aren’t many spaces that allow us to feel freely. We often ignore emotions during the healing process. With this performance, I wanted you to feel every single emotion. Feel it all, don’t avoid your feelings. Forgive yourself to move through healing with more ease.

Q: What other creative outlets fuel your artistic fire besides music? Whether it’s visual art, poetry, or even a killer sourdough starter, share your hidden talents!

A: I’m not sure if it’s artistic, but life itself inspires me. Hearing stories from elders motivates me to be a better person and create a good life for myself and future generations.

Q: As a Cape Town musician, what excites you most about the city’s vibrant music scene? Any hidden gems or unsung heroes you’d recommend checking out?

A: Cape Town can be tough for non-mainstream artists. However, there’s been a surge in the music scene post-Covid, with artists actively creating and pushing boundaries. Right now, I’m focused on fulfilling my purpose through music, but here are some incredible artists you should check out: Thandeka Mfinyongo, Sky Dladla, Nobuhle Ashanti, Lonwabo Mafani, Odwa Bongo, Thembelihle Dunjana, Kujenga, Kitso Seti, Tefo Mahola.

Q: What’s on the horizon for you beyond Big Little Concepts? Upcoming gigs, new releases, or any wild dreams you’re chasing – spill the beans!

A: I have a gig with amazing musicians at the Athletic Club [and Social] on 6 April 2024. My second single is also coming out in May! That’s all I can reveal for now.

Q: If you could trade musical styles with any local artist for a day, who would it be and why?

A: Brenda Fassie! Her free and carefree vibe is exactly what I need to express the message I want to convey through my music.

Q: What’s the one record that forever holds a special place in your heart? The soundtrack to your childhood, a family heirloom, or a recent discovery that blew your mind – tell us the story behind your musical treasure.

A: “Umzali wam” by Simphiwe Dana. My mom and I became very close after my father passed away. We have a comfortable and supportive relationship. Her guidance means the world to me, and I value her immensely.

Q: If you could collaborate with any musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?

A: Simphiwe Dana. She’s a legend who profoundly shaped me as an artist. Her story, music, and voice deeply resonate with me.

Q: Ten years from now, how do you hope to be remembered in the Cape Town music scene?

A: I want to be remembered as the artist who created a space for all of us to heal.

Odwa Bongo’s story is one of passion, purpose, and a deep respect for his cultural heritage. His desire to revive the uHadi and reconnect audiences with the power of music for emotional exploration is truly inspiring. Whether you’re a longtime fan of isiXhosa music or simply seeking a deeply emotive listening experience, Odwa Bongo is an artist well worth checking out. Keep an eye out for his upcoming gig at the Athletic Club and Social on 6 April and the release of his second single in May. As Bongo himself says, his ultimate goal is to be remembered as “the artist who created a space for all of us to heal.” With his dedication to his craft and his powerful music, there’s no doubt that Odwa Bongo is well on his way to achieving exactly that.


I can’t play any musical instruments or sing, so this is my contribution to the local music scene — which I love immensely. I can’t touch my toes, but that has held me back only slightly in life. My hobbies include reading, beer, bringing up Let’s Get Local when no one asked, writing, and surprising people with my pool skills. I believe somehow all of this will lead me to Dave Grohl.

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