Top South African Music Artists Of All-time

With their music, several South African musicians put the country on the map. Although many of them passed many years ago, their music and the legacy they left behind continue to speak for them.

South Africa is one country that has been through the worst and survived it. A lot of our musicians have created and released music that symbolizes what we’ve been through and given our people the strength to keep going. Through our music, the world has felt our pain, our sorrow, our joy, and even our victories.

The most common thing among all the musicians listed below is that their music stood for something. Their music represents everything that South Africa is about, even to this day. They not only showed the world the country’s strength, but they also showed the world all the love we possess. The listed musicians also made music across various genres.

Now here’s a list of the top South African musicians who have made a mark in the country, on the continent, and in the world with their careers.

1. Lucky Dube

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Of course, there wouldn’t be a list if Lucky Dube was not on it. Dube was a South African Reggae musician and rastafarian. He is considered to be one of the most influential musicians in both African and South African music. He is also one of the most excellent and revolutionary Reggae musicians of all time. In a period of two-and-a-half decades, Dube recorded 22 music albums in Zulu, English, and Afrikaans. He remains the country’s best-selling Reggae singer to date. Dube won several music awards and also dabbled in acting during his time.

2. Miriam Makeba


Miriam Makeba, a.k.a Mama Africa, was a lot of things that represented South Africa in the best ways. Makeba was a musician, an actress, and a civil rights activist. Her songs contained elements of Afropop, Jazz, and World music. She was also a well-known advocate against apartheid and the white-minority government in South Africa.

Makeba was born in Johannesburg, and her vocal talent was recognized right from when she was a kid. While she dominated the South African and African music spaces, she was also famous in the United States. In 1967, she released her most famous song, “Pata Pata.” In 1965, Makeba won a Grammy Award. Makeba was one of the first African artists to receive worldwide recognition. At her death, Nelson Mandela said, “her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.”

3. Brenda Fassie


Brenda Nokuzola Fassie, best known as Brenda Fassie, was a South African singer, songwriter, performer, dancer, and activist. She was affectionately called MaBrrr by her fans. She was also known as the “Queen of African Pop,” “Madonna of the Townships,” or “The Black Madonna.” She gained a reputation for her bold performances on stage. Of her revolutionary music and worldwide reputation, she is regarded as one of the greatest musicians in both Africa and South Africa. She sold platinum and multi-platinum albums in South Africa. She is known for the hits “Weekend Special,” “Black President,” “Vulindlela,” and more. A life-sized Bronze sculpture of Brenda was installed in Johannesburg in her honor.

4. Soweto Gospel Choir


Almost everyone in Africa and various parts of the world know about the Soweto Gospel Choir. The famous choir, which is still in existence, has taken South Africa and Gospel music all over the world. The choir was formed in Soweto, South Africa, in 2002 by David Mulovhedzi and Beverly Bryer and producers Andrew Kay, David Vigo, and Cliff Hocking. It includes a more than 30-member ensemble. The group has toured the world several times. In 2006, 2007, and 2018 respectively, they won the Grammy Awards for Best Traditional World Music Album.

5. Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a South African male choral group. The group sings in the local vocal styles of isicathamiya and mbube. The group gained international recognition in 1986 after singing with Paul Simon in his album “Graceland.” They have since won several accolades, including five Grammy Awards and more. They dedicated their fifth Grammy to the late former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Through their music, the group showcased the South African Cultural heritage. They also toured the world and performed in many countries.

6. Hugh Masekela

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Called the Father of South African Jazz, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela was a trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, singer, and composer. His compositions helped earn him fame all over the country and the world. He was also known for well-known anti-apartheid songs, including “Soweto Blues” and “Bring Him Back Home.” In 1968, he earned a number US Pop Hit with his version of “Grazing In The Grass.” The song sold four million copies. The 1967 song “Up, Up, And Away” was also a big hit in the US. Masekela also performed in Jazz ensembles. In 1968, 1989, and 2012, Masekela was nominated for Grammy Awards.

7. Lira

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Lerato Moipone Molapo, famously called Lira, is a South African singer whose name translated to “love.” Lira is a multi-platinum-selling artist and an 12-time SAMA winner. She is known for making Afro-soul hits and is regarded as one of the richest musicians in South Africa. Lira describes her music as “a fusion of soul, funk, elements of jazz and African.” The Star newspaper reported that she is “currently considered the foremost adult contemporary female solo artist in South Africa.” She grew up listening to Miriam Makeba, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone. She began performing live at the age of 16.

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