The effect of Mandisi Dyantyis

I believe in a life of purpose, I believe everyone is called for or at least placed here for one reason or another. Our purposes can be purely for self or at times interlinked to that of others – or at least I think so. I am often curious about the lives we lead and the purposes we live out respectively. Musicians particularly spark my interest, their purpose often seems purely and genuinely channeled towards the serving and guiding of others. It is the work of artists such as Mandisi Dyantyis that help me feel I may [still] be on the right path in the pursuit of my own purpose. I do not know the purpose of Mandisi or that of any other musician, but I’m convinced that it plays into mine and that of many others.

Since the day I first heard Somandla I have been sold on the philosophy of Mandisi Dyantyis. A humble man with an extraordinary gift, touching hearts, and serving as a moral compass with his socially conscious lyrical content. One consistent feature in Mandisi’s music is the greeting intro which exhibits influences of isitibili. In the Xhosa culture, greetings are a basic yet pivotal sign of respect. In Molweni from his debut album, the singer greets the listener and then asks that they sit and listen to the music he brings. I think he should have instead said “listen to the revival I bring”, because that is exactly what his music does, it revives.

With his debut album Dyantyis ignited romantic relationships, as he will never let us forget, through his songs Molo Sisi and Ndimthanda. True to his consistent and observant nature, Dyantyis aids in the repair of those relationships in his second album with Ndixolele and Isithandwa Sam. At one of his live shows he once narrated a story of how he was booked to perform at a wedding, which can be seen as rather peculiar given his music, but you know what? I get it. I absolutely understand that couple. Once you have been touched by the effect of Mandisi Dyantyis, any and every occasion or milestone can easily be draped in Mandisi’s music; not because you’re going to dance ’til sunrise but more because it makes you feel whole and seen. His music reminds you that you belong to a people as much as they belong to you. It anchors you in love, faith, hope, and community.

His music feels like having a conversation with an adored grandparent who, through their wisdom, gently unpacks the mysteries of life to you while also affording you the opportunity to unpack the pain you carry from being pricked by the thorns of life.

Who could ever forget how the music maestro carried many of us through the covid-19 lockdown with the ‘living room session’? Which was followed by the 3-part ‘in conversation series’. If you have no idea what I’m referring to then perhaps you may be familiar with the NguMama video that has held the number one spot on Mothers’ Day for the past two years. If not, click on the thumbnail below:

When what was supposed to be a 21-day lockdown turned to months, tensions ran high but one thing that kept many sane was music, and Mandisi’s music was a favourite. In June 2020, the award-winning musician presented episode one “Umzabalazo – Songs of Freedom” of what would be a three-part series. Episode 2 “Ubuntu – I am because you are” followed in August 2020 and Episode 3 “Imvelaphi – Orgin, Heritage and Culture” in September 2020; each offering raising the bar and cementing the fanbase that’s now dubbed the Dyan Tribe. Through the series, the musician offered hope and comfort, both in word and song, assuring us that we still had the grit and resilience to persevere through the pandemic, and he was right. That’s the thing with Mandisi Dyantyis, he’s not oblivious to reality, instead he uses his gift of music to provide a safe space for all of us to vent and be held up in love and grace.

Fast-forward to May 2021, the lockdown restrictions had been eased slightly and gatherings resumed albeit controlled. As luck would have it, Mandisi Dyantyis was set to have a show in Gauteng. On the day of the show, 29 May 2021, we drove out and boy oh boy did we drive. I caught myself wondering whether the venue really was in Gauteng because where in the gravel were we going? But you know what, the travel didn’t matter because I was finally going to meet the man who had held our hands during a very difficult time in our existence. A man who had given us the opportunity to remember our dearly departed beyond the lens of grief, and who has given us the words to pray when our own hearts were overwhelmed.

Since then I have attended more Mandisi shows than I can remember and each time it feels like a brand new experience. Through his storytelling he captivates his audience, through his charisma he entertains and through his empathy he comforts. I consider ourselves blessed and fortunate to live in a time where we can experience such authentic and captivating storytelling.

In his music we find traces of ourselves. In the melodies, harmonies, and lyrics we are afforded the opportunity to view and appreciate life in all its dualities and paradoxes. Mandisi Dyantyis gives us the courage and tenacity to be authentic through every life experience.

My hope is that your heart and soul will find a home in Mandisi’s music the same way mine has.

To the jazz maestro, Mandisi Dyantyis: thank you for your service in music to repair and replenish the African child.