Monday, June 29, 2009

My 10 favorite South African songs

If you ask me where the capital of music is, I'll have to tell you Johannesburg or in a more general case, South Africa. The number of music genres in South Africa is huge, from kwaito to rock, house to mbaqanga, and afro-pop to fusion. South Africa is surprisingly more diverse than people think it is, so I won't be surprised if there are South African bhangra or asian pop artistes. They do have a 14 year-old Chinese violinist prodigy. The Confederations Cup just ended in South Africa and the Bafana Bafana were third. It's sad the 'vuvuzelas' drowned out the melodious singing of other Mzansi folk :-) Before I get into a run down of my 10 favorite songs from South Africa, check out my 10 favorite Nigerian songs and 10 African songs I think you should know about. Go South Africa! Local is lekker! You may discover your next favorite song. Click the songs to find the lyrics, video, audio, etc.

Black President - Brenda Fassie (Afro-pop)
This song resurfaced a little when Barack Obama was elected America's president. It was originally composed for Nelson Madiba Mandela. I love MaBrrr's storytelling. Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to many around the world and is probably one of the few respected leaders ever. Brenda is one of the famous African musicians of all-time and though she died under some bad circumstances, her music will remain timeless, especially this song. "But the spirit was never broken". "Let us sing for our president, let us pray for our president". "I will sing for my president, I will stand and say, Viva, viva, viva!"

Thathis'gubhu - Bongo Maffin (Afro-pop)
I have no idea what this song is about but it made an impression on me the very first time I heard it. I heard it at Mount Holyoke's AC Day (MHACASA's African-Carribean day). The ladies did a great kwaito dance to it and it had me moving to a new sound with a new groove for a new dance in my seat. I have sung along to the song a bunch of times I think I can sing it without help except a couple 'la-la-las'. I do enjoy Bonfo Maffin's stuff over Thandiswa's solo stuff though. You should check out Thandiswa's new song, Ingoma, it's doing quite well.

My number one (Kudala ngizula) - Gang of Instrumentals (Rock/alternative)
This is my favorite Mzansi song to listen to recently. I don't know if it's the rock beat but there's just something about that song. Maybe the drums at the beginning/ And some non-South African friends have agreed. Gang of Instrumentals is a group of 3 (2 of which are an item). There is ragga, rap, pop, reggae, rnb, their albums are complete packages. This is some of my fave lyrics ever "You are my love; My sun; My reason to wake in the morning; The reason I smile all day; You are my one"

African dream - Vicky Sampson/Soweto Gospel Choir (Gospel)
Most people have an idea what the American dream is but have you ever heard of an African dream? Is there one? Is it different from country to country? I don't know. I do know that this song is one of the best I've ever heard. Telling lyrics, smooth instrumental and the part where they start singing in Zulu is just so heavenly. "Bawetu we Afrikaaaa". "Cos in my African Dream; There's a new tomorrow; My African dream; Is a dream that we can follow" That's great four lines of spirit uplifting. I don't know much about Vicky but I did see the Soweto Gospel Choir (SGC) perform live. They were 'heavenly'. :-D Choirs like SGC just prove the vocal talent that South Africans are spoilt with. All those R&B crooners and fake autotune people should move aside for the real singers.

Crazy party - In-Cha, Danny K, HHP (Violin hip-hop track with no strings attached)
In-cha is a teenage violinist supremo from South Africa who is Chinese. And she's not an immigrant. Danny K is a white singer from Mzansi as well, performs mostly R&B and Pop. HHP is one of the most popular rappers in Africa at the moment. Diversity scores on this track. Clap clap clap, come join this crazy party. Great music.

Dubula, dubula, dubula - Kabelo (Kwaito)
I already mentioned 'High I go' in my 10 African songs entry and Kabelo makes another entry here. This time, it's his 2006 megahit dubbed Dubula cubed. "Cuz you can't keep a good man down". Kabelo is one-third of the famous South African kwaito group called TKZee who brought us Shibobo. He's now busy marketing Reebok, living a born-again life and making more great music (Booga Luv). "I'm not gonna shoot anybody; I'm just having fun with my lyrical prowess". This line should end all rap battles.

Never change my mind - Malaika (Afro-pop)
Malaika is my favorite South African group of all time. Never change my mind is the major hit from their latest album, Sekunjalo. It's the only song I own on that record but it's enough. It's sad Jabulani passed away not too long ago, the video for this song was a fitting tribute to him. The video was kinda hilarious and well-done too. Those melodious voices on this song are catchy and do grab you. More on Malaika later. "Ngithanda wena; Ngizikhethele wena; Sthandwa sami siyofa silahlane; Bazokhuluma bakhulume bampempethe bakhathale; Ngikuthanda ngoba ngiyak’ncanywa" Buriful.

Muntuza (2bob) - Malaika (Afro-pop)
Here's my favorite group again, this time with the song Two bobo. Malaika makes some really great party music but they have some mellow and slow tracks too. I shall say no more because Swazibella offers a translation - "2 bob literally means 20 cents, and figuratively, a fine woman (like myself neh)...I dont know why they would compare a fine woman to (only) 20 cents, but it's a huge compliment in South Africa." The song basically says "who is that fine woman next to you" to different people (including Thabo Mbeki!). Ha ke sa chechela morago is Setswana for "I'm not turning back", to mean, I'm not turning back now that I've found this fine woman!"

Muthaland - Jozi (Hip-hop)
This was between Tuks' 525600 minutes and Jozi's Muthaland. Picked Muthaland because the song references Africa. I love the way the song starts, everytime I listen to this track, I have to rewind the first minute. In the motherland, we gets down. Africa is one big party. I love hearing loud radios on the streets and chop-bars parties in the evenings. You bet they do it better dancing and singing in South Africa though. South Africa 2010, I must go to this world cup and visit South Africa. I have to experience the music, the vibrancy, the culture, the spirit, the sounds, the scenes, the whole shebang. "All my peeps across the land; Stamp your feet and clap your hands; If you feel it, raise your hand; This one's from the motherland".

Wa mpaleha - Lira (Jazz)
The most played song on my iTunes and iPod now is Wa mpaleha by Lira. Lira's my favorite singer from South Africa now, because she's a friend (hehe). Wa mpaleha is a nice jazzy, slow jammy track that is very easy to listen to. Lira hasn't sent me the lyrics or translations yet so we'll have to make do with the music video and music for now. You'll have to increase the volume and enjoy Lira's talent. It will make you feel good. You should hear her tribute to Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday, one of the best birthday songs ever composed.

These are the first 10 songs that came to mind. If I remember one injustice that I missed, I will comment about it. Just like last time, I want to list a few honorable mentions. Tuks' 525600 minutes borrows the chorus from the Rent soundtrack. I am also a big fan of Zola's music, the guy who takes credit for most of the Tsotsi soundtrack. Check out Phezulu. Also check out Lira's Ixesha and Feel good. I also love SGC's I'll remember you and Hlohonolofatsa. I recently heard Life & Death by Lulu Dikana and Ngeke Ndiphinde by Jaziel Brothers. I also like this Ngumunt'onjani lo track by Ntando and Nhlanhla of Mafikizolo fame. Other favourites are Fiasco (TKzee), Emlanjeni (Mafikizolo), Umqombothi (Yvonne Chaka Chaka), Motherland (Mamaland) (Yvonne Chaka Chaka), Remember when it rained (DJ Sbu), Magic & Ndawo Yami (Zamajobe), Moni fere (KB Motsilanyane), Eyakho & Sondela (Ringo Madlingozi), Doo be doo by Freshlyground etc. Last but not the least, I want to shout out my boy Tumi for his lovely Give me youtrack which was actually partly recorded in Ghana.

I know the World Cup in South Africa is coming up next year, if you need one more reason, let it be the music.

Long live South African music.
Long live African music.
Long live Africa.
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