Local singer-songwriter Elie Mabanza yearns while he plays. It’s pain, but it’s also joy. It’s the full spectrum of intense emotions, and he’s an extremely talented vessel for it all.
The music he plays on his acoustic guitar, which sounds like a mix between flamingo and West African folk music, is so stirring that even people who don’t know him or understand the words he’s singing—he sings in French and Congolese—are still moved deeply.
“A homeless man told me once that my music is healing,” he says. “And another person said that they have lots of problems, ‘but when I listen to you, I feel better.’ Even though I sing in another language, they still understand.”
Originally from the Republic of Congo, Mabanza first picked up a guitar at age 10, though he tells me he’s been playing music since he was in the womb.
“I was born a musician,” he says.
Before moving to Santa Cruz in late 2017, he lived in North Carolina for three years. The audiences here, he noticed, were very different.
“The people are truly sensitive, and listen intently,” Mabanza says.
His music details the pain and struggle and war he lived through in the Congo. But he also sings about love. His voice is haunting, stirring and angelic.
“I’ve seen suffering, and my music is influenced by that. It comes out of my experiences,” Mabanza says. “It’s what I’ve been through.”
His seven-song CD, Acton Street Session – Rough Cuts is available for purchase on his website. He’s currently working on a new album, which he hopes to have finished by the end of the year.
INFO: 7 p.m. Sunday, April 14. Flynn’s Cabaret & Steakhouse, 6275, Hwy. 9, Felton. $10 adv/$12 door. 335-2800.