Selecting the “best” South African songs is subjective, as it depends on personal taste and the era or genre you’re interested in. Remember, South African music is incredibly diverse, and this list only scratches the surface.
However, here’s a list of iconic South African songs that have made a significant impact across various genres and time periods:
- Miriam Makeba – “Pata Pata” (1957): A timeless classic that embodies the joy and vibrancy of South African music.
- Hugh Masekela – “Grazing in the Grass” (1968): Masekela’s instrumental hit, blending jazz and Afrobeat influences, became a global sensation.
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo – “Homeless” (1986): Their collaboration with Paul Simon on the “Graceland” album brought traditional Zulu harmonies to the international stage.
- Johnny Clegg & Savuka – “Scatterlings of Africa” (1987): A fusion of Western and African influences, this track reflects Clegg’s unique musical approach.
- Brenda Fassie – “Weekend Special” (1983): A Kwaito classic by the Queen of African Pop, celebrating the weekend and infectious dance rhythms.
- Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) – “Mannenberg” (1974): A jazz masterpiece that played a crucial role in the cultural resistance against apartheid.
- Mafikizolo – “Khona” (2013): A contemporary Afro-house hit that showcases Mafikizolo’s ability to blend traditional and modern sounds.
- Lucky Dube – “Remember Me” (1992): A reggae-infused track with socially conscious lyrics, representing Dube’s impact on the global reggae scene.
- Zahara – “Loliwe” (2011): A soulful and emotive Afro-soul hit, showcasing Zahara’s powerful vocals.
- Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse – “Burn Out” (1984): A South African anthem with a blend of jazz, pop, and traditional influences.
- Cassper Nyovest – “Doc Shebeleza” (2014): A hip-hop anthem that contributed to Cassper Nyovest’s rise as a leading figure in South African hip-hop.
- Simphiwe Dana – “Ndiredi” (2006): A neo-soul track that reflects Dana’s unique style and socially conscious themes.
Note that the popularity of songs can vary based on personal taste and regional preferences. Here are a few that gained attention during that time:
- Master KG ft. Nomcebo Zikode – “Jerusalema” (2020): This international hit took the world by storm, inspiring a global dance challenge and becoming one of the most recognizable South African songs.
- Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa ft. Buckz, Myztro – “Phumelela” (2020): Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa are prominent figures in the Amapiano scene, and this track showcases their production prowess.
- Focalistic ft. Vigro Deep – “Ke Star” (2020): Amapiano sensation Focalistic teamed up with Vigro Deep for this energetic hit that dominated the South African charts.
- Nomcebo Zikode – “Xola Moya Wam'” (2020): Known for her soulful vocals, Nomcebo Zikode delivered another impactful song that resonated widely.
- DJ Zinhle ft. Dr Duda, Lucille Slade – “Go!” (2020): DJ Zinhle’s upbeat track “Go!” became a popular choice for dance floors and radio playlists.
- Makhadzi – “Murahu” (2020): Makhadzi’s energetic Afro-house sound in “Murahu” gained popularity and showcased the diversity of South African music.
- Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa ft. Burna Boy, WizKid, Cassper Nyovest – “Sponono” (2020): This collaborative track brought together Amapiano heavyweights with international stars, demonstrating the genre’s global influence.
- Sun-El Musician ft. Msaki – “Ubomi Abumanga” (2020): Sun-El Musician’s collaboration with Msaki delivered a soulful and introspective track that resonated with listeners.
- Vigro Deep ft. Focalistic – “Blue Monday” (2020): A fusion of Amapiano and hip-hop, “Blue Monday” showcased the versatility of both Vigro Deep and Focalistic.
- Cassper Nyovest ft. Zola 7 – “Bonginkosi” (2020): Cassper Nyovest paid tribute to kwaito legend Zola 7 in this powerful and nostalgic track.