“In the beginning, there was Jack… and while one day while viciously throwing down on his box, Jack boldly declared ‘Let there be house’ and house music was born.”
So goes the fable as narrated by Chuck Roberts on his seminal track, “My House.”
House music has always had a home in South Africa—from tribal house to techno, deep house and afro-infused house.
Over the years, the genre has been responsible for packing dance floors and creating memories in the minds of countless house heads in the country.
Here are 10 of the best house joints produced and released by South African musicians over the years.
For more, listen to our South African House extended playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.
DJ Mbuso “Mbuso’s Revenge”
DJ Mbuso is a man of many hats. As the co-founder of Soul Candi Records and Phezulu Records, he’s been responsible for bringing many a hit into South African dance floors through his compilations. He’s also a producer of considerable talent. Taken off 2005’s Soul Candi Session 2, “Mbuso’s Revenge” features racing percussion, a thick bass line and a meandering string section that makes it both a contemplative house joint as well as an essential for the club floor.
Black Coffee “Wathula Nje”
Black Coffee has long built a career as South Africa’s quiet jazzman. He’s always had a sound that’s equal part house and jazz. But nowhere was this expressed as beautifully than on “Wathula Nje,” which features the late Victor Ntoni. With it’s rubbery bass line, soft percussion and jazzy piano melodies, this song is classic Black Coffee. He would later go on to record a live version of the song which featured a 24-piece orchestra.
McLloyd “Tembisa Funk”
Released in 2007, with a feature on Oskido’s Church Grooves 6 compilation, “Tembisa Funk” features stuttering brass hits and heavy reverb, which make the track both ominous and inviting. The version that appeared on Oskido’s album was a bit more refined—with a tweak here and there—but the original version still exists on the internet.
No list of greats would be complete without the unassuming duo of twin brothers George and Joseph Mothiba, who have been creating afro-infused, tribal house long before it became the wave to do so. “Vhavenda,” their remix of Phillip Tabane’s song of the same name, features onomatopoeic singing from Tabane over racing drums and an infectious flute and guitar melody. Revolution would be the last to admit it, but this song still remains a South African house classic.
Culoe De Song “100 Zulu Warriors”
As far as first impressions go, Culoe De Song couldn’t have chosen better than “100 Zulu Warriors.” With its hissing strings and xylophone taps the song introduced the world to Culoe’s brand of tribal house and led him to be discovered by Black Coffee. A version of the song later made its way to Black Coffee’s 2007 release Have Another One, but the original is still a classic in its own right.
Follow our South African House extended playlist on Spotify.
DJ Fresh & Kellex ft. Thabiso “Stay Real”
DJ Fresh is an artist who needs little to no introduction in South Africa’s house scene. He’s rightly considered one of the most important architects of the scene and you only need to take a listen to his Fresh House Flava and Definition of House series to find out why. “Stay Real” saw him team up with local producer Kellex and head behind the boards for a song that would easily fill any dance floor to this day. “You are who you are, don’t change” goes the song’s chorus over a slow-moving chord section. Ultimately, the song is about maintaining one’s sense of self amidst all the bullshit people throw your way.
DJ Cleo “Do It Again”
Before DJ Cleo veered into the realm of caricature, singing about WhatsApp, Facebook and every other social media platform you could think off, he was a producer with signature bass lines and menacing drum patterns. Eskhaleni Extension 2 displays the full range of his musical talent. That release’s main single, “Goodbye,” was a popular song that featured a sample of Andrea Bocelli’s “Time To Say Goodbye.” The album’s crowning achievement, however, comes in the form of “Do It Again.” With its bass guitar lead, flutes and the “do it again” refrain, the song is one of DJ Cleo’s best.
Sis n Jones “Set Your Mind Free”
Taken off DJ Fresh’s Definition of House Volume 2 compilation, “Set Your Mind Free” is a South African house masterpiece like no other. Produced by Sis n Jones before the untimely passing of Art Jones (one half of the duo), the song has all the features of a deep house banger: mellow chords, an orchestral section and a buoyant, semi-motivational chorus.
Kentphonik “Sunday Showers”
House trio Kentphonik left an unforgettable mark on the South African house scene. The DJ group first announced their skills behind the boards with “uWrongo,” a bass-heavy song featuring Ntsiki Mazwai. “Sunday Showers,” which features on their titular debut album, reworks DJ Sai and Ribatone’s track of the same name. Using xylophone taps, the song works its way into a jazz solo that soars before settling back into a laid-back Rhodes section.
Blackwhole “1000 seconds”
In 2007, Pretoria duo Blackwhole released their debut album On Another Level. The second track on the album, “1000 Seconds,” went on to become a permanent fixture on dance floors across the region. From the infectious synth to the chopped vocal sample, the song brought the duo’s brand of sparse, electronic music to the mainstream and the song still remains a banger to this day.