A former domestic worker in the remote village of Nqamakwe, Eastern Cape, from the age of 17 till she dropped out of Tertiary institution where she was studying part-time and working for the lectures of the Eastern Cape Technikon, now Walter Sisulu University.
When she arrived in Johannesburg to seek a career in music, she discovered that the streets were not paved with gold, so she returned to her employment as a domestic worker in Fordsburg, Mayfair, and Homestead Park. Jessica Mbangeni, 38, has a great love and enthusiasm for community building through music that pervades not only her profession but all element of her life, knowing that rhythm is what guides one through life's everyday struggles, joys, highs, and lows.
Jessica, who was born and raised in the Eastern Cape, is a sought-after female Imbongi (praise singer) in South Africa, and she has left her mark in a male-dominated cultural environment. Jessica gives incisive comments on current events by invoking the role of this old practise, which was heavily impacted by her grandmother's isiXhosa storytelling in the town of Nqamakwe. She has shared the stage with music legends such as Dolly Rathebe, Thandi Klassen, Abegail Kubheka, and Dorothy Masuka.
Jessica Mbangeni rose to prominence as a praise vocalist after joining the Multi-Grammy Award-Winning Soweto Gospel Choir in 2002 and touring Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, and 37 cities across the United States of America.
She has played at important events such as the 46664 concert in Cape Town and the second inauguration of South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Ms Mbangeni is an ABSIP and PPC South Africa resident artist who has won and been nominated for various prizes. Her honours include the following:
- Imbokodo Award for the Preservation of Indigenous Languages,
- Best South African Traditional Music Achievement Awards
- Best isiXhosa Album and Female Album,
- SATMA Award for Best Song of 2016.
- She also received the Eastern Cape Excellent Achiever's Award in 2014 and 2016.
- In 2014, she was nominated in seven categories for the SATMA Awards, and in 2015, she was nominated for Best Creative Album at the Wawela Awards.