There are musicians and there are musicians, and while every one of them has a dream of not just making it but flying high in the universe of artists, only a few actually get to break out and make great successes of their musical ambitions.
As you probably already know, South Africa is one of the active hubs of music as we know it, with many artists from disparate genres dropping their bars almost every day. Expectedly, in the Rainbow Nation, some artists are much more influential than others.
In this article, we bring you some of the most influential artists in South Africa at the most — artists who are almost always in the news and whose songs continue to inspire generations of South Africans.
When one talks about the most influential, one walks down a subjective path. Still, we believe you will love the names on our list, which we give in no particular order. Let’s roll, shall we?
1. Black Coffee
This Coffee is not coffee per se. But as a musician, he’s worth lapping up, of course. Black Coffee is a celebrated international disc jockey and producer and easily the most prominent disc jockey of South African provenance.
Looking back, it’s inspiring to note that Black Coffee never had it great at the outset. He struggled mightily. With a paralyses hand and all, he still had great faith in his dreams of one day becoming an accomplished musician. That faith has since paid off. Today it is impossible to talk about South African music without somehow mentioning his name
The songster won his first ever Grammy award this year for his album, “Subconsciously.”
2. DJ Maphorisa
DJ Maphorisa calls the shots at Blaq it Music. The singer and producer is, without a doubt, one of the most visible voices in South Africa’s music space.
Lawd Porry is famous for his amapiano offerings and for his loud advocacy for piano music in South Africa and beyond. However, the songster didn’t start with piano music. He was a gqom ace who snapped attention with a series dubbed “Gqom Waves.”
He had a semblance of a violent awakening when Nigerian singer Wizkid heard an amapiano song and asked what sound it was, because he loved it. That was all Photo needed to make the switch to piano music. He has not looked back.
3. DJ Zinhle
Zinhle Jiyane is a disc jockey and singer and easily one of the most loved South African musicians out there. Like everyone else on this list, she started from the bottom, running around for DJ gigs. Her consistency stood her out.
In the intervening years, she had released several scorching tunes, including “Umlilo” and “Uzobuya.” Her interests transcend music, however. Not only is she a successful singer, but she’s also a prosperous businesswoman as well, with interests in fashion accessories and wine.
She’s the brains behind Era by DJ Zinhle, which deals in personal accessories and jewellery. She’s also the chief executive officer of Boulevard Rose, a wine brand. It doesn’t end there, however. She runs a hair brand called Hair Majesty.
Oskido is a close friend of the songstress mentioned earlier. But his appeal is mostly in his music. The songster is justly respected as one of the kwaito veterans in South Africa — a man with a voice that many are only too happy to listen to.
Beyond music, Oskido also has his hands in other piles. He’s the brains behind Kalawa Jazmee, a record label that has several Idols SA aces signed to it.
There’s also Duruma by Oskido, a Japanese restaurant and a favourite hangout spot for many celebs in South Africa.
5. Kabza De Small
Kabelo Motha, long famous by his adopted stage name Kabza De Small, is a man with a spare frame, hence the stage name. His stature notwithstanding, the songster is pretty big on the music scene in South Africa.
He’s an amapiano singer and producer whose contributions to the genre are pretty impressive. Unsurprisingly, and because he started playing piano music before it became popular, and stuck to it, he’s often called the king of amapiano music — a tag he’s more than happy to take and even promote.
Kabza De Small is one of the most prolific musicians of any genre in South Africa. A versatile artist, he can rap as well. But, well, he rarely raps.
Kiernan “AKA” Forbes is pretty Lo g on staying power in that he’s been around for years, and he’s been consistent all the while, dropping fiery bars and refusing to go away. Today, it’s near impossible to talk South African rap without some gown mentioning his name.
AKA is a man of many parts — a businessman as well as a rapper. He was formerly part of the Cruz Vodka family, where he had his own products, including Cruz Vodka AKA Watermelon. Just recently, though, he’d announced that he’s amicably ending his relationship with the brand to focus on other things — possible setting up his own alcohol brand soon.
7. Cassper Nyovest
An inspiration. That’s what many South Africans would rather call Refiloe Maele Phoolo, the rapper long famous by the adopted stage name Cassper Nyovest. Who would have thought that, just about a decade or so ago, a young secondary school dropout who moved out of the township on the back of an open truck would today emerge as one of the most prominent voices in South African rap?
Probably no one. But Cassper knew what he wanted and how to go about getting it. Consistency, a masterly devotion to his art, and Cassper Nyovest became one of the biggest names in South African music, the maestro of #FillUp — a man with an iron legacy that will outlive him.
8. Master KG
Only a few know him as a disc jockey, but Master KG was a DJ before he became a famous singer. The songster had released a couple of hits, including “Skeleton Move,” but it wasn’t until he released “Jerusalema” in collaboration with Nomcebo that he became globally famous.
That song has been streamed over 420 million times on YouTube and snapped the record of one of the most streamed South African songs of all time.
Today, thanks to the immense popularity of “Jerusalema,” Master KG is a resonant name in South African music.
9. Zakes Bantwini
He’s a singer, a disc jockey and one of the most educated South African musicians out there. The “Osama” ace recently caused a stir in the Rainbow Nation, when it was revealed that he’d be releasing his lady work and retiring from music. The announcement was later deleted. So it’s safe to say the muso is very much around.
10. DJ Tira
He’s unarguably one of the most successful South African musicians out there — a disc jockey, a producer, and a businessman. Meet DJ Tira.
The songster runs Afrotainment, a record label to which several fine names in South African music are signed.
DJ Tira has made such a success of his career that he’s justifiably one of the athletes for the good life — always cruising around in some of the choicest cars money can buy. For one who’s over two decades in the music industry, the songster has earned his stripes.
Of course, we could go on and on about the most influential South African musicians. But we’d leave it at this.