MINILiving goes in search of local musicians who are changing the landscape of South African music.

South Africa is a country filled with unique treasures, awe-inspiring landscapes and a colourful mix of people and personalities. But this original mix of cultures and creatives results in truly unique voices that are breaking barriers locally and globally, putting South Africa on the map within the music industry, in particular. MINILiving took a closer look at local musicians who are shaking things up, proudly using their talents to make their own sound.


Spoek Mathambo’s township tech

Nthato Mokgata (aka Spoek Mathambo) is a multi-talented artist, producer, singer-songwriter and rapper, who changed the landscape of electronic music in South Africa, coining the term “township tech”.

“I am very proud to be able to share my vision of music and impact people’s ideas of what South Africa is and can be,” says Spoek. “Township tech and township house music will continue to grow and it’ll go wherever the people decide it should go.”

When it comes to Spoek’s outlook on the South African music scene, he’s very excited about the future. “SA music is constantly growing and its impact expanding. I’ve been seeing this expansion for a long time globally, a real palpable excitement about what has been happening between our borders specifically.” Spoek recalls a recent trip to South Korea where he heard local DJs casually mixing SA house and gqom (a style that originated in Durban) among their other global styles. He’s seen this in other countries too, across Europe and the US. “It’s the beginning of people recognising a modern Africa with modern aesthetics.”

Spoek attributes the current trend of the South African sound to our rich and diverse musical heritage stretching many centuries. “What makes South African music unique is that we are a meeting point of so many different cultures. We have a truly global perspective: born from the indigenous people of Africa, to immigrants, imported slave groups and colonialists. It makes our world more colourful. Troubled yes, but colourful … and full of knowledge and culture.”


The new face of Afrikaans music

Born in Vereeniging and discovered on Facebook, Refentse Morake is a black Afrikaans singer breaking down barriers in the music industry. He went on to be named Male Artist of the Year at the 2017 Ghoema Musiektoekennings, the same year he won the Best Selling Album of the year at the South African Music Awards.

“I think the fact that I’m a black South African man singing in Afrikaans gives me a very unique vibe.” In celebration of cultural diversity, Refentse bridges a racial divide one might not have thought possible. “I am combining the African sounds that I grew up with and Afrikaans lyrics.”

South African artists are no longer imitating western styles and ideas of making music and, as a result, they have given birth to a new sound. Refentse is excited about what local musicians are bringing to the table – a fresh, African sound that Africans can relate to. “We should keep doing what we are doing,” he says, “but there is still a long way to go, as music is a forever changing and learning journey with greater depths still to be explored.”


Breaking boundaries with Batuk

Batuk is an electric ensemble founded by Spoek Mathambo and producer Aero Manyelo, alongside lead vocalist Manteiga. “Batuk’s sound is a fusion of many cultures, languages and rhythms,” says Manteiga. As an individual, she explores both her Mozambican and South African roots in all her songs, drawing inspiration through her collaborations with musicians from all parts of the continent. She calls it “proudly and freely African contemporary music.”

“It’s not so much about breaking borders as it is about bridging the gaps that we don’t understand and overlook. Specifically in Africa. We are all one. If there is any barrier I am interested in ‘bashing’, it’s the mental borders that we have created that block us from so much magic and discovery,” says Manteiga.

And as for the South African music landscape, she feels South African music has always been very powerful and influential. “We have the ability to create and recreate sounds that impact the world. We are a singing nation and I love and admire artists who take this craft seriously and are not just making music to become famous or to mimic American musicians. Our music lives in our veins. It’s beautiful. We are in the right place, doing the right thing… Just watch and listen.”

Images/Photographs: Nikki Zakkas, Gabrielle Kannemeyer, Supplied