Without music, life would be a lonely place. It is an expected part of everyone’s life. Every emotion, mood, and occasion has its own song. Music brings people together and creates bonds that transcend materialistic values; it improves the world and society.

Music can be a comforting, beautiful sound or a call to justice and revolution. Music defines a culture and captures the essence of what makes it unique. It enables people to enter a different space and experience various emotions. It allows you to express things that you might not be able to express otherwise.

South Africa has a rich and vibrant musical history. During the apartheid years, music was the sound of resistance, producing anti-apartheid songs that further elucidated South Africans’ plight. The country is home to legendary musicians and performers who helped shape the distinct genres of South African music that we know and love today.

South Africa is home to a plethora of internationally renowned musicians from various genres, including jazz legend Hugh Masekela, singing diva Miriam Makeba, hip-hop icons Die Antwoord, and Afro-pop singer Brenda Fassie, to name a few.

 South African Music Genres

  1. Kwaito
  2. Kwela
  3. Mbaqanga
  4. South African house
  5. Isicathamiya
  6. Javia (Township Jive)
  7. South African Jazz
  8. Mbube
  9. Amapiano
  10. Township Music


Kwaito is a musical genre, but it is also much more. It’s a form of self-expression and style that became popular in post-apartheid South Africa, and while the music is important, the term “Kwaito” refers to a larger culture that includes fashion and vernacula. Simone Swink described Kwaito as “a form of self-expression and a way of life—it is the way many South Africans dress, speak, and dance” in her essay “Kwaito much more than music.”


Kwela music emerged in South Africa in the 1950s, influenced by Malawian immigrants. If you’re looking for music that is both rebellious and fun and upbeat, Kwela might be the band for you. Because of the frequent use of pennywhistles in the music, it is sometimes referred to as Pennywhistle Kwela, and the word “kwela” comes from the old term “khwela khwela,” which means police van.


When translated into Zulu, “Mbaqanga” means cornmeal porridge, a common and uninteresting meal for many. This, in my opinion, is an unjust name for the upbeat jazzy music that bears the same name. Mbaqanga, like Kwela, was developed in shebeens (but a decade later, in the 1960s) and was usually played live, because record producers and radio stations were frequently controlled by white people who did not want to promote Black artists.

South African house

Kwaito music influenced the stylistic development of this genre. It is classified as deep house or soulful house in South Africa, and it has its own distinct sound and vibe, which is reflected in its musical style. Gqom is a South African house music subgenre. Electronic house emerged in the early 2010s, largely influenced by producers DJ Lag, Rudeboyz, Griffit Vigo, Dominowe, and Citizen Boy. Gqom is distinguished by its minimal, raw, and repetitive sound, which includes heavy bass beats but lacks the four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern.


isicathamiya’s music is heavily influenced by Zulu culture, spirituality, and ideology, and some of the songs are in Zulu. Modern isicathamiya is more organized and competitive than other genres of music: choirs regularly hold all-night events in Johannesburg. While many people outside of South Africa may be unfamiliar with the genre, almost everyone is familiar with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which was adapted from Mbube by Solomon Linda, an isicathamiya singer.

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