Africans are very passionate people when it comes to music, even in the precolonial era. African musicians have packed stadiums and arenas all over the world for decades with their often eccentric performances. Due to the demand of African songs, the biggest musicians from this part of the world are always on tour to places in Europe, America or even Asia. The notion that the crème of African music comes from South Africa is a never-ending debate. However, the best South African musicians of all time have dominated airwaves not only in their country but in the entire continent.
Generally, if you are a lover of any genre of music, you must have come across some big South African names, be it in reggae, soul, RnB, hip hop, or even the traditional types of music. There are many musical legends; some alive others dead, but their music continues to entertain millions and millions of fans.
A name that quickly comes to mind is the famous Lucky Dube. He may be dead, but you know what they say, nobody can stop reggae. Lucky Dube is just one of many South African musicians with global fame. When it is all said and done, the list of famous South African musicians cannot be exhausted.
Best South African musicians
Here are the top 10 South African musicians:
1. Lucky Dube
Image: instagram.com @luckydube
Though this list is not ranked according to who is best, Lucky Dube just had to come top. He is one of the greatest African musicians of all time. Lucky Dube is by far a pioneer when it comes to reggae in Africa. His music resonated with the old and young alike. Unlike many reggae artists, Lucky Dube’s songs had nothing to do with praising marijuana or even advocating “thug life.”
His was music with messages such as ending wars, family issues, and religion. It was a huge blow when the musician was murdered in cold blood. Otherwise, he would have continued to make good reggae music he is known for. His greatest hits include:
- I’m a prisoner
- It’s Not Easy
- Back to My Roots
- Together As One
2. Miriam Makeba
Image: instagram.com @makeba
Miriam Makeba is another South African great in matters of music. Miriam was better known as Mama Africa, and it is not for nothing. She is a pioneer in the South African music industry, having gained worldwide fame as early as the 1960s. Her great music was very instrumental in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. It was her life mission to sing against the oppression of blacks in their motherland.
The most recurring themes in her music included justice, humanity, peace, and equality. It goes to show that the best African music is not just about the melody, rhyme, or instrumentals. Ultimately, the message in the songs carries the day. Miriam is an embodiment of the talent of South African musicians who died. She is known for songs such as:
- Pata Pata
- Soweto Blues
- Hurry, Mama, Hurry
3. Hugh Masekela
Image: instagram.com @hugh
When it comes to the most popular South African musicians, Hugh Masekela has to get a mention. Hugh Masekela is evidence that music knows no age. He began his music career back in 1959, and a long career followed. Hugh can be described as a musical genius because apart from singing, he also used to be a trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, and composer. In his early years, Hugh teamed up with Dollar brand, Kippie Moekatsi, and Mokaya Ntshuko to form the Jazz Epistles.
They became a hit with their Jazz music, which was new in South Africa at the time. On his own, Hugh managed to collaborate with other international artists such as Paul Simon in Further to Fly and Byrd in So-You-Want-To-Be-A-Rock-and-Roll-Star cementing his status among famous South African jazz musicians. Hugh released hits such as:
- Grazing in the Grass
- Bring Him Back Home
- Bajabula Bonke
- Don’t Go Loose It Baby
READ ALSO: List of top Kenyan gospel artists in 2020
4. Yvonne Chaka Chaka
Image: instagram.com @chakachaka
She won’t miss among the South African music legends of all time. Who has not heard of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the beautiful and talented South African singer? She is easily an African favourite when it comes to music from South Africa. When she was not singing, she could write songs or teach and sometimes go out on humanitarian missions.
Yvonne is famous for her sweet voice, and like many musicians on this list, she also sang about the oppression of South Africans by whites, thus contributing to the anti-apartheid movement. She has more than 10 albums, a further ten contributing albums, and two compilations. Yvonne’s greatest hits include:
- Let Me Be Free
- Who’s Got The Power
- Thank You, Mr. DJ,
- I’m In Love With A DJ
5. Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is another group that makes it to the list. The truth is there are some very great musicians who, for one reason or another, will never make it as solo artists but instead thrive in musical groups and bands. This South African all-male musical group is one whose contribution to the music industry cannot be ignored.
If you have never heard of this group, you will be surprised to learn that they have more than 50 albums, and no one can produce all that music without being good at what they do. They are known for their authenticity and musical passion packaged with some deep male voices singing in harmony. Their tours have sold out stadiums attracting a huge fan base all over the world. The band produced some beautiful hits such as:
- Hello My Baby
- Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain
6. Soweto Gospel Choir
Nothing can be better food for the soul than the sweet melodies of a choir singing in harmony. The Soweto Gospel Choir is known for beautifully and intricately crafted music that brings a spiritual awakening to listeners. Ever since they released their first album, “Voices From Heaven”, nothing has been able to stop Soweto Gospel Choir.
The group boasts international fame and recognition and has won a Grammy award for Best Traditional World Music. They have had tours to every corner of the world and continue to produce excellent music. Their harmonies have come up with hits such as:
- Siyabonga Jesu
READ ALSO:6 talented Kenyan female musicians to watch in 2020
7. Brenda Fassie
Christened the “Queen of African Pop”, Brenda Fassie is undoubtedly one of the best South African musicians of all time. Brenda had the beauty, voice, and talent that made her a rare icon in South Africa. She has been dead for almost two decades, but her name and music still soldier on. Due to her talent and great music, Brenda was able to tour the world and win several awards while at it.
When she was alive, Brenda had the opportunity to share the stage with other international icons such as Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, and Freshlyground. She opened the way for other international South African musicians to follow. Some of Brenda’s amazing hits include:
- Vuli Ndlela
- Wedding Day
- Weekend Special
- Too Late For Mama
- Black President
8. Vusi Mahlasela
Image: instagram.com @vusi
Vusi Mahlasela is another South African musical giant. The talented Vusi is a singer and songwriter who will be remembered for being a source of inspiration to South Africans during the anti-apartheid movement. His lyrics were often fired by messages of hope, freedom, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
The veteran singer has almost ten albums with several international hits such as When You Come Back, which was used as a theme song for ITV during the FIFA World Cup that took place in South Africa ten years ago. Vusi blessed us with hits like:
- Thula Mama
- Say, Africa
- When You Come Back
- River Jordan
Mafikizolo is another group that gets us thinking that African music is best when made by bands and groups rather than solo artists. The members struggled when they attempted to go it solo, but as a group, they are a real force to reckon with in the music industry.
They are not just good at singing but also masters in dance, something typical of the South African music. Their best songs include:
- Love Potion
- Colors of Africa
- Ndihamba Nawe
- Ngeke Balunge
Though based in South Africa, Freshlyground is a group whose members come from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. All these members have a unique touch in the group, and they bring versatility to the style of their music. Their tunes are often a blend of different elements, including blues, African folk, jazz, indie rock, and Kwela styles.
This group is most remembered when they collaborated with Shakira to produce the FIFA official song for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. That song, Waka Waka, became an instant hit giving Freshlyground international recognition. Some of Freshlyground songs are:
- I’d Like
- Pot Belly
- Doo Be Doo
- Father Please
There is no doubt that the South African music industry is one of the most developed in the continent of Africa. If you sample music from the south, you will realize that they produce all genres of music known to humankind, be it rock, RNB, hip hop, jazz, reggae, and other African categories of songs. It is for this reason people don’t find it hard to point out the best South African musicians of all time because not only do they rock in their country but the entire world as well.