South African music culture

South African music culture is made up of diverse genres, from hip hop, kwaito and gospel to pop and alternative rock. Jazz has a special place in South African music culture and South African artists are well-known for pushing musical boundaries and doing things in new and exciting ways.


“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.


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