South African music culture
Did you know?
"Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", part of the joint national anthem of South Africa, was originally composed as a hymn by South African school teacher, Enoch Sontonga in 1897.
Making it, listening to it or moving to it; in South Africa, music infuses every aspect of our lives. The country has a rich musical heritage that includes both popular and folk forms, encompassing genres such as jazz, blues, gospel, rock, pop, reggae, hip hop, kwaito and more.
This vibrant contemporary music scene reflects a long and colourful history that saw African, American and European music forms mix, evolve and go on to entertain diverse groups of South Africans over the decades.
While old favourites like Ladysmith Black Mambazo remain one of the world's most popular choral groups and the likes of Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim continue to enthral, there is an exciting new group of South African musicians that have emerged over the last decade.
This group includes singer Simphiwe Dana, whose success has seen her hailed as the new Miriam Makeba, with her unique combination of jazz, pop, and traditional music. Another young star is Thandiswa Mazwai, originally a kwaito singer with Bongo Maffin who combines local hip-hop rhythms with traditional Xhosa sounds, creating something completely new. Artist Verity has been recognized internationally for innovation in the music industry and bands like BLK JKS and Die Antwoord are bringing South African culture to the forefront of musical development and receiving global recognition.
Other popular contemporary South African music includes the likes of Freshlyground, the Parlotones, LocnVille and Zebra and Giraffe, as wells as singers such as Karen Zoid and Jack Parow. Their sounds range from laid-back pop to Afrikaans rock and roll and even rap.
Kwaito is also a uniquely South African sound based on house music beats, but typically at a slower tempo, characterised by melodic and percussive African sounds, deep basslines and vocals that are chanted or shouted, most often by a male singer.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 11 340 8000
Look and Listen music store
Tel: +27 11 467 3717
Musica music store
Tel: +27 (0)8687 422
How to get here
The music scene in South Africa is focused around fours major centres, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein. These cities are easy to reach by road or by air.
What will it cost
Live music can cost between R40 and R400 per ticket.
South Africa has several annual music festivals including Oppikoppi, Rocking the Daisies and Splashy Fen. The music festivals cater for different genres and styles of music. There are also regular live music events at venues around the country.
Take some South African kwaito, jazz or gospel music home with you.