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10 Classic South African House Songs You Need to Hear

Here are 10 of the best South African house tracks released over the years.

“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.

Revolution "Vhavenda"

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.

Follow our South African House extended playlist on Apple Music.

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This Afro-Feminist Marching Band Is Challenging Negative Stereotypes of Black Women In Paris

30 Nuances de Noires is fighting the erasure of black women in public spaces one march at a time.

If you stroll through the streets of Paris and its suburbs and stumble across a parade of black women wearing shiny outfits, singing and dancing, consider yourself lucky: you've just come across the Afro-feminist marching band '30 Nuances de Noires' (30 Shades of Black).

The band was created by dancer and choreographer Sandra Rose Fanchine. Tired of the erasure of black women in the public space and of the negative stereotypes associated with them, Fanchine has brought women (and a few men) together in this project. Professional and amateur singers, dancers and musicians, they have all accepted to embark on this journey and use their talents to launch this much-needed conversation in France.

Sandra Rose FanchinePhoto by SEKA photography

The band's musical coordinator, Célia Wa, is a flautist, singer and composer. When Fanchine invited her to take part in the project, she was very enthusiastic to have the opportunity to play alongside other black female musicians and take part in something that portrays black women in a positive light and in a flamboyant way. She was also keen to play alongside other black female musicians and coordinate them, outside, in the public space, where music is accessible to everyone. But it wasn't easy going. "It's hard to find women who play wind instruments" she explains. "But especially black women. So, we decided to incorporate a few black men musicians—men who understand the meaning of the project and support us. They don't try to dominate the space, they wear dresses and headwraps, they really blend into the group."

Célia WaPhoto by SEKA photography

Wa hopes the project will encourage many young girls to become professional musicians by showing them that being a fulfilled woman, having a music career and a family life, is possible.

Awori is the singer of the band Kamiawori, and a singer and dancer in the parade. She accepted Fanchine's invitation to join the band because she realized a brass band made of women—especially black women—was something unique that she wanted to be part of. "Throughout history, women had been forbidden to play wind instruments because blowing into those instruments was assimilated to a sexual act", says Kamiawori. "As a result, nowadays, the majority of people playing these instruments are men, so the fact that Sandra was looking for black women only was really appealing to me".

Earlier this year the band had the chance to travel to French Guiana to do a performance with black Guyanese women. This is the kind of future she wants for the project. "I want us to go to places in France where there aren't many black people, as well as to the former French colonies and the French overseas territories," she says. She hopes the project will start conversations everywhere, and empower black women to talk about their issues in their own words and organize their own emancipation.

AworiPhoto by SEKA photography

***

Read on for our conversation with Sandra Rose Fanchine. This interview has been edited for length and clarity

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I'm 51 years old, I was born in Martinique and grew up in Côte d'Ivoire. I'm a hip-hop dancer and choreographer. I first came to France 22 years ago to study graphic design but along the way, I found hip hop and started dancing out of passion. With my background in graphic design, I knew I was going to be a choreographer eventually, I was convinced I could use hip hop beyond its performance aspect, bringing my visual artist's knowledge to it and using it to promote a narrative. So, when the age of maturity came, I became a choreographer. My first work considered the social construction of femininity, and I then created a piece which dealt with the memory of the black body. 30 Nuances de Noires is my third choreographic work.

Where did the idea of "30 Nuances de Noires" come from?

It came from my professional frustration as a black woman. When I was looking for a job after my studies, my graphic design work was very culturally influenced by my life in Martinique and Côte d'Ivoire. I was proud to show the aesthetics and the colors, to me it was beautiful but it wasn't seen as such, it was seen as something unworthy and my work was always devalued.

I also had to face that devaluation in my personal life. I wanted to partner up with a black man, but I could see that black men didn't value me, didn't give me space and in general chose to have solid relationships with white women. I am light-skinned so I used to pass black men's colorist filters, but this privilege stopped as soon as commitment was mentioned. I looked around me and saw a pattern in the way black men treated black women, in the way people in general treated black women, how we were looked down upon. I wanted to create something about that topic.

Photo by SEKA Photography

Why did you choose that name?

I chose that name to criticize the movie 50 shades of Grey, which from a feminist point of view is a sexist and misogynist movie, that glamorizes violence against women. Moreover, black women, in the global conception related to sexuality and sentiments, are continually eroticized in a very specific way: animalization, exotification and fetishization. I chose to reclaim these stigmas, just as Audre Lorde writes about in the chapter of her book Sister Outsider named "the use of eroticism, and the use of anger: the response of women to racism."

How did the people around you react to this project?

At first, I wanted to do a piece about sexuality, love and the neocolonial aspects of interracial unions but I faced a backlash from people in the cultural institutions and people in the hip hop industry. Whenever I talked about my project I was completely shut down and called a racist.

After all that rejection and denigration, I went back to university and studied gender studies for two years, and around the same time I became an Afro-feminist activist. In the meantime, the project evolved. I used to work at festivals where there were many brass brands and I already wanted to create a marching band with hip hop dancers so I just mixed the two ideas: highlighting black women's issues and creating a marching band.

After equipping myself with the relevant intellectual tools, surrounding myself with other black women and realizing we were all going through the same things, I was capable of demonstrating the systemic nature of what I was talking about and the barriers fell. I was finally in the right place at the right time. I found the artists very easily, the first musicians I met brought other musicians, the first dancers brought other dancers, it all happened very organically.

Photo by SEKA Photography

What type of women were you looking for?

I was looking for women who were strong enough to embody and address those issues unapologetically. They had to be capable of dancing on the streets with an attitude that says "I am standing up straight, I am black, I am glowing, I am shining and you will look at me and ask yourself how you really see me because I am not all those stereotypes you believe I am." Naturally, it first attracted feminists, women who were already aware of those issues. The women who later joined us and weren't aware of those issues are now more conscious and politicized.

What are the musical and aesthetic inspirations behind the project?

I really wanted visuals inspired by the aesthetics of the 70s and 80s because the dances present in the parade—locking and waacking—emerged at that time. For the musical aspect, I looked for songs that talked about black women and their issues: sorority, colorism, equality and resilience.

Photo by SEKA Photography

How do you see the project evolving in the future?

I want to do a world tour, I want us to dance with Beyoncé and Solange, I want to take this message of empowerment everywhere there are black women who need to exist, shine, go outside and assert their presence in the public space. Because of harassment, sexism and prejudice, it's still pretty complicated for women to simply exist. I consider myself lucky because I can see that the band does what I wanted it to do: it really empowers black women and seeing that happening gives me a lot of strength to take it further.

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Seyi Shay. Image provided by the artist.

Seyi Shay's 'Electric Package' EP Is All About Love & Positive Vibes

We talk to Seyi Shay about her new EP, an intimate mix of different afrobeats blends topped off by Gqom.

Talented Nigerian singer and songwriter Seyi Shay recently dropped her brand new music project, the Electric Package EP Vol. 1.

It's her first project in three years, since the release of her debut album, Seyi or Shay, in 2015. The EP, an intimate mix of different blends of afrobeats, contains six tracks, topped off at the end by the Gqom brand of South African house music.

The project features artists from different corners of Africa, including rising singer King Promise from Ghana, Afropop songstress Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, and rapper and producer Anatii from South Africa, giving it a pan-African outlook.

However, she didn't forget her fellow Nigerian acts, as seasoned highlife singer Flavour, young Afropop superstar Kiss Daniel, and fresh act Slimcase are also on the bill.

Several DJs were also involved in the project, hosting different songs in mixtape fashion; DJ Spinall, DJ Consequence, DJ Neptune, and DJ Cuppy from Nigeria, Vision DJ from Ghana, and DJ Tira from South Africa. The songs were produced by Killertunes, DJ Coublon, Krizz Beat, Lush Beat, Anatii, and Chopstix.

We caught up with the singer to discuss Electric Package. Read our conversation below.

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OkayAfrica & Nike Present: Naija Worldwide

We're linking up with Nike to celebrate Nike's fire Nigeria kits and to send Team Nigeria off to the 2018 World Cup with style.

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We've teamed up with Nike to bring the Naija spirit to the world with "Naija Worldwide," an epic bash to celebrate Nike's triumphant Nigeria kits as we send Team Nigeria off to the 2018 World Cup with style!

Join us on Saturday, June 2, from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at The Well in Brooklyn as we mark the occasion with music by DJ Tunez, DJ Moma and DJ Moniki. The vibe also includes art by Laolu Senbanjo, Nigerian cuisine, and a surprise performance by one of Afrobeats' finest.

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