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May 16, 2010

South African music – redefining traditional genres

prime circle

Prime Circle. Photo courtesy Steve Crane

The music of South Africa is as diverse as the colours of her rainbow nation. From hip-hop to hard rock and electro-jazz to Afro-fusion, traditional genres have been melded to create unique sounds that reflect the influence of her multi-cultural peoples.

As the saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” so what better way to embrace all that is South African than by listening to the amazing talent of the country’s musicians?

Tune in to local, or national, radio stations for a taste of what’s on offer, or pop into a local mall and pick out a few CDs to listen to as you drive around the country.

Freshlyground is an Afro-fusion and urban dance group comprising seven talented musicians from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The band will enjoy a high profile during the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ thanks to a recent collaboration with international pop star, Shakira, on Waka Waka, the official World Cup anthem. The band’s second album, Nomvula, went multi-platinum in South Africa and their broad appeal won them an MTV Europe Award in 2006 for Best African Act.

Two young men from Cape Town defied traditional dance music genres by creating their own unique electro-jazz and deep house jazz fusion under the banner Goldfish. Dubbed “a breath of fresh air”, the duo’s two-year foray into the electronic music genre has earned them praise from a wide range of fellow musos, including Dr Dre, James Blunt and Simon le Bon. Their debut album Caught in the Loop was released in 2005 to rave reviews.

Welcomed by music lovers in the USA after breaking into the South African music market, the four-member pop rock/alternative band, The Parlotones, has sold more than 200 000 copies of their 2007 release, A World Next Door to Yours. Their track Overexposed garnered awards locally and in the US, including two awards in the International Song Contest.

Malaika is a proudly South African trio that won immediate favour with the country’s Afro-pop lovers just a few years back. Their music, combined with energetic stage performances, has seen Malaika net substantial sales, top the charts and earn airtime on many of the country’s radio stations. Look out for their own-name album Malaika and listen out for their chart-topping single Destiny.

Kwaito is an indigenous township pop sound that has held sway over the black youth market for decades. TKZee took kwaito to a new level by fusing it with hip-hop, house and their unique Jozi rap style, to create a niche in the mass market. TKZee’s 1996 album Take It Eezy was the first collaborative effort by the three young school friends. By the following year it had put them in the spotlight and was followed by the smash hits Palafala and Shibobo in 1998.

Hip Hop Pantsula’s (Double HP) clever collaborative approach with established artists such as NAS, Amerie and South African Danny K set him up for success. Adding snippets of local vernacular –Tswana, Zulu and Sotho – to the mix accorded him a growing fan base. HHP has not restricted his style and incorporates a diverse range of hip-hop sounds, including a mix with South African violinist, In-Cha.

Hard rock buffs Prime Circle comprise a five-piece band that has established and maintained a strong musical presence in South Africa for more than 10 years. Their contrasting mix of hard rock and gentle acoustics with raw vocals has redefined the genre.

A year after they released All or Nothing, the album went platinum, earning Prime Circle gigs and airplay across the country.

Relatively new on the local music scene is the rap-rave outfit Die Antwoord, billed as “the love-child of many diverse cultures: black, white, coloured and alien”.

Locnville have aimed their music at the hip-hop/electro-fusion market. Their album Sun in my Pocket sold more than 15 000 copies and is the highest-charting South African debut album ever. Six Second Poison, their follow-up, is another distinctive gravel-voiced groovy offering from the young duo and is also set for success.

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