2020 is only halfway gone. But then South Africa has been blessed with a brilliant bubble of albums – enough for us to take the liberties of picking some of the best of them and sharing them with you right here on South Africa’s premier music and entertainment blog – UbeToo.com.
Compared to, say, Nigeria, the evolution of South Africa’s music industry is pretty recent. That notwithstanding, the music industry in Mzansi has so evolved that it is hard not to be wowed by it all.
In the list we give below are some of the voices Instrumental to this transformation – voices that will still be listened to and appreciated years from now. The list is of course subjective, encapsulating works of disparate genres, from hip hop / rap to gqom to amapiano… And we’re still counting.
In the list of 20 given here, the emphasis is strictly on albums – albums and not mixtapes or EPs.
At any rate, we are confident you will love our list of 20 top albums released in South Africa so far this year, 2020. At the end of it, we encourage you to not only tell us what you think, but to make your own list, or add to ours.
Now let’s take the plunge.
This list is given in no particular order, yet it is not coincidental Kabza De Small’s album should pop at the top of the list. Although a recent release (26 June 2020), this compilation of 27 Amapiano tunes was an instant hit in South Africa, snapping the number 1 spot in the album’s chart as soon as it was released.
In some quarters, the argument for the album’s spectacular success has been that it was massively hyped, pre-release. But that’s only partly true.
Kabza De Small’s masterly craftsmanship in the amapiano genre speaks for him in this album, as it had in previous compilations. It isn’t surprising, then, that he has been described as the king of amapiano music in South Africa and has sealed that verdict by including in as part of the title of his chef d’oeuvre.
Azana is one of the artistes signed to Sun-El Musician’s El World Music. She joins the likes of Claudio x Kenza, Mthunzi, Sino Msolo, S-Tone and other artistes signed to the premier record label.
Incidentally, the artiste so mentioned all found feature spots on this 14-track album, bringing their luminous gifts into an agreeable whole – a sumptuous pop feast for an instant getaway, any day anytime, anywhere. You should love it, this body of work we’ve been vibing with for days now.
Clearly gqom has a particularly “stubborn” adherent in Mandla Mamphulo, the Big Nuz bod who goes by the stage name of Mampintsha. At a time fellow gqomites are dumping the genre for the seductive flares of amapiano, the songster is still flying the qgom flag, fiercely.
in fact, in a jocund lapse of social media time, via a meme, he had made it clear he would decimate amapiano’s prospering kingdom with his gqom bars. He made that known just after releasing his “Bhut’Madlisa” album.
This 13-track compilation is pretty lavish in its thematic preoccupations, incorporating, among others, Mampintsha’s relationship with long-time girlfriend Bongekile Simelane, long famous as Babes Wodumo (see track 6, “Sduku Duku.”
To the album’s credit, it has some of the finest names in gqom music in South Africa and easily shot to the number 3 spot on the album’s chart soon after release.
4. De’KeaY & Unlimited Soul – New Wave Piano Album
De’KeaY & Unlimited Soul are two sterling voices in South Africa’s amapiano universe with a couple of collaborative tunes between them.
Their collaborative album brings the best of their lyrical gifts into one fine compilation that will engage your spirit instantly and keep it engaged for a long time. Who wouldn’t want to kiss the “Wave”? Not a soul we know.
It is hard not to love Mi Casa’s “We Made It” album. Very hard. This compilation of 13 pop grenades is significant in that it marks 10 years of the formation of the South African band of 3 (comprising Dr Duda, J’Something, and Mo-T).
A decade may have elapsed since the coming together of band members, but the band has remained, maintaining its fiduciary bond and the fidelity of its original sound, even when several other bands have disintegrated during the same decade. So there you go – “We Made It”!
This isn’t just another album from the troika, but one of their finest to date. In fact, we think it their chef d’oeuvre. You might reach a similar verdict if you should elect to listen to all the tracks – this is assuming you are conversant with the group’s previous works.
“Yanos Vol 1” is one compilation we are confident you will be chuffed to hear, especially if you are familiar with South Africa’s amapiano orbit. You gotta check the work out.
Semi Tee’s “I’m Only Twenty One” album is another compilation we think you should hear. We think it a work of progress, coming at a time the songster crossed out of the 20 mark. Young though he might be, he’s treated us to several fine numbers already, affirming his place as a critical voice in Mzansi music.
If you have come this far, then you ought to check out Imfez’emnyama’s “Lakokota“ album. It is a fine body of work and definitely worth hearing. Go ahead and check it out.
Da Capo’s “Genesys” is pretty decent a compilation and an easy favourite in the list of 20 given here. Go ahead and embrace its dreamy vibe.
The title of Pdot O’s “Cold Waters (Love Eternal)” album might mislead the uninitiated into thinking it houses some cloying bars. Far from it. This body of work brings you songs of great poetic warmth.
A list of this length can’t be complete without mentioning Simphiwe Dana’s soaraway “Bamako” album. It was worth our time. It might be worth yours as well.
Definitely one of our favourites, this album, from one of the finest lyricists in the game. It comes recommended.
Like his most recent compilation, ” I Am The King of Amapiano,” Kabza De Small’s “Pretty Girls Love Amapiano vol 2 (2020)” album is another winning compilation you should check out.
Afro Brotherz is a two-man band and deservedly respected in South Africa’s Afro-house orbit. The group brings you a cosmic part of their lyricism in” Music Is Culture” album.
King Monada, who occupies a prime spot in the bolobedu house plane of South African Music, pops some fine bars in this compilation. Unfortunately, none of them carried the storm of “Malwedhe,” his monster hit of 2018.
Wouldn’t you rather key into the cosmic with Berita’s “Songs in the Key of Love” album? This sumptuous lyrical feast will assuage your hunger instantly.
Aha, here is another compilation that will make your day. From the title, you might be inclined to think you are in for something didactic. Perhaps so, but then the compilation spares you drab breaks.
Blaq Diamond is a South African band and one of the most significant. The group’s “Umuthi” album is unapologetically Diamond – read as diamond – a forever feast.
Mthunzi is fairly new in the music scene in South Africa, but his singing gift is of sterling resonance already. His “Selimathunzi” album popped online early this year to purrs of pleasure across Mzansi.
The El World Music artiste is one musician you should be pleased to check out and even retain on your playlist.
Max-Hoba continues his musical adventures with this 13-track worldwide album that promises to keep you on your feet for a long time. Although it is the songster’s debut on this platform, the album soars.
Of course this article covers only a fraction of the albums released across South Africa so far this year. That’s just why we’re keeping the door open for you to add to our list, or draw up a list of your own. The comment section is open for that. Cheerio!