​Top Left: Oscar Mbo. Top Right: Lwah Ndlunkulu. Bottom Right: Dlala Thukzin. Bottom Left: Tyla.

Top Left: Oscar Mbo. Top Right: Lwah Ndlunkulu. Bottom Right: Dlala Thukzin. Bottom Left: Tyla.

Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for OkayAfrica.

The 20 Best South African Songs of 2023

Featuring Tyla, Dlala Thukzin, Lwah Ndlunkulu, DJ Kent, Loatinover Pounds, Oscar Mbo and more.

From Afropop and hip hop to maskandi and the different offshoots of house, South African music, across the spectrum, continues to thrive. In 2023, we saw the rise of 3Step, a fairly new pulsating hybrid dance music genre that blends elements of Afrotech and amapiano. Similarly, creative fusions, remixes, and revisits of yesteryear sounds and songs, with contemporary soundscapes, were also dominant this year. The music remained hyper-productive without compromising on quality, and considering how vast the spectrum of SA music is, there’s something to cater to listeners' preferences and different palates.

Check out our picks for The Best South African Songs of 2023 below.

Tyla — “Water”

The career of South Africa’s pop princess, Tyla, rocketed to new heights this year. Her viral single “Water” and its accompanying dance challenge became a global smash and peaked in the top 10 Billboard Hot 100 charts. The sultry tune, carried by the breakout star’s velvety vocals, has received two remix treatments from international acts Marshmello and Travis Scott.

Dlala Thukzin — “iPlan” feat. Zaba & Sykes

With every release, Dlala Thukzin always seems to catch at least one hit record. On the sequel of his Permanent Music EP series, that song is the Zaba and Sykes-featuring “iPlan.” Since its release in September, the track’s reverberating hook has been ringing throughout the country's corners.

Oscar Mbo x KG Smallz — “Yes God” feat. Dearson (Mörda, Thakzin, Mhaw Keys Remix)

A year after its release, Oscar Mbo gave his single “Yes God” with KG Smallz and Dearson a new lease of life through a remix package. The 10-track project contains reworked song versions by Kabza De Small, Kelvin Momo, CocoSA and more. However, the Morda and Thakzin remix became a standout. The trio continued the proven hit-making streak they first displayed on Morda’s seminal 2022 track, “Mohigan Sun.”

DJ Kent — “Horns In The Sun (feat. Mo-T, Mörda & Brenden Praise) (Thakzin Remix)”

Acclaimed multi-mixer/producer DJ Kent has given his 2022 track “Horns In The Sun” remix treatment, courtesy of Morda, Thakzin & Brenden Praise, Chronical Deep and China Charmeleon. While he may not be as active as he was in the 2000s and early 2010s, Kent’s prowess for producing quality music has not left him and enlisting younger talents proves that he is still tapped in. The Thakzin remix, in collaboration with Morda and Brenden Praise, is a musical odyssey of symphonic horns and majestic drums.

Inkabi Zezwe, Sjava & Big Zulu — “Umbayimbayi”

This year, two musical heavyweights, Sjava and Big Zulu joined their powers to form Inkabi Zezwe. The debut single as a duo, “Umbayimbayi” became an instant hit and chart-topper. Within a few months after release, the thumper achieved multi-platinum status. In May, Inkabi Zezwe also put out their collaborative album, Ukhamba, which has since hit gold and was amongst the most streamed SA albums on Spotify.

AKA x KDDO — “Company”

Legendary musician AKA tragically passed away earlier this year while preparing to release his LP, Mass Country. The KDDO-assisted “Company,” dropped a few days after his untimely loss as the album’s lead single. His fans and casual listeners received the song well, proving that the artist may no longer be with us physically, but his music will live forever.

Lwah Ndlunkulu — "Ngiyeza"

Inkabi Records’ Lwah Ndlunkulu ushered the year with the heart-warming ballad “Ngiyeza.” On the track, the singer-songwriter expresses her undying love for her romantic partner and her relentless wish for them to stay together. Much like her previous single, “iThuba,” the song is produced by and has additional vocals from her label mates Xowla (Stallion) and Siya Ntuli. The artist dropped her debut album, Imizwa, to close off the incredible year she had.

Sykes — "Sisekakeni Babies" feat. Skillz Musiq & RudeBoyz

After being a guest vocal feature on a handful of house tracks since 2020, Sykes finally had a breakthrough as a lead artist this year. The burgeoning vocalist’s official debut single, “Sisekakeni Babies,” produced by Skillz and Rude Boyz, put him on everyone’s watch list — Apple Music even selected him for their Up Next campaign.

Fezeka Dlamini, Nomfundo Moh, Naledi Aphiwe — “Uyangijabulisa”

In August, rising Afropop acts Fezeka Dlamini and Naledi Aphiwe teamed up with fellow KZN singer/songwriter Nomfundo Moh on their single, “Uyangijabulisa.” Relatable, sincere lyrics and heartfelt crooning made a snippet of the song go viral on TikTok before it was officially released.

Sjava, Q Twins & Mzukulu — “Isoka”

In late January, esteemed musician Sjava shared his third full-length project, Isibuko, his most introspective work yet. The album’s lead single, “Isoka” is an Afropop record, which features the duo Q Twins and maskandi artist Mzulukulu and has the artists take turns to express how a lady loves whoever she loves. During the year's first quarter, the enchanting track was nominated for Best Collaboration and Song Of The Year at the Metro FM Music Awards.

Loatinover Pounds — “Sosh Plata Remix” feat. 25K & Thapelo Ghutra

Rap newcomer Loatinover Pounds had his breakout moment this year. The MC struck gold with his single “Sosh Plata” and its accompanying remix. The 25K and Thapelo Ghutra-assisted re-up of the viral track is undoubtedly 2023’s best hip-hop song to drop.

Wanitwa Mos, Master KG & Nkosazana Daughter — “Keneilwe” feat. Dalom Kids

The globetrotting Master KG via his imprint Wanitwa Mos and frequent collaborator Nkosazana Daughter, joined forces yet again in time for the summer. The melodic track is an amapiano-influenced revisit of Dalom Kids’ hit and has Nkosazana’s mesmerizing vocals, adding a new flare to the already infectious original record.

Lwah Ndlunkulu — “Eyami”

Following the success of her singles “Ngiyeza” and “iThuba,” Inkabi Records’ first lady, Lwah Ndlunkulu, continued her impressive rise with another hit record. Much like her previous tracks, the romantic ballad is produced by Xowla (aka Stallion) and has backing vocals from Siya Ntuli. A few weeks after dropping the song in August, the Afropop star walked away with the Song of The Year award and Artist of The Year trophies at the inaugural Basadi in Music Awards.

Lindough — “Ok’salayo” feat. Freddie Gwala, King Short & DJ Active

Versatile entertainer Lindough put his twist on the hook of Freddie Gwala’s “Matshidiso (Ndofaya)” and scored a hit. A snippet of the track went viral on TikTok and Lindough saw it fitting to include the legendary musician on his rendition of the classic. Comedic skits and a dance challenge on social media catapulted the song to mass consumption and hit status.

Mthandeni SK — “Paris” feat. Lwah Ndlunkulu

Maskandi superstar Mthandeni SK, fondly known as Igcokama Elisha recruited Lwah Ndlunkulu on his record hit “Paris.” The unlikely collaboration made waves shortly after its August release and resonated with fans of both musicians. The track has become the biggest Maskandi and one of the most streamed songs this year.

Harrycane, Master KG & Eemoh — “Dubula [Remake]” feat. DJ Latimmy

Figurehead of Limpopo dance music, Master KG tapped into the XiTsonga ‘piano bandwagon made popular by “Ka Valungu” by signing Harrycane to his Wanitwa Mos stable. The relatively unknown producer released “Dubula” shortly after as it gained traction on TikTok. In early November, they put out the remake of the sound with vocals from Eemoh.

Pushkin — “Zulu” feat. Amaqhawe and Philharmonic

“Welele” hitmaker Pushkin, alongside Amaqhawe and Philharmonic, shared their infectious track “Zulu” in October. Before its official drop, the track started gaining traction on social media platforms thanks to its catchy hook and dance challenge. The banger dynamically melds Afro house/tech and amapiano elements with Pushkin and Philharmonic’s soulful vocal approach.

Casswell P & Master KG — “Mangihlale” feat. Lwami

Master KG’s Wanitwa Mos imprint is a gift that keeps giving. Casswell P, an artist signed to the label, caught a slow burner with “Mangihlale” alongside vocalist Lwami and his stable boss. Stylistically, the song lies within the hit-proven signature sound of Wanitwa Mos.

Artwork Sounds x Bee Bar — “Awesome God” feat. Kabza De Small

This year, house duo Artwork Sounds released the second edition of their album series, The Gospel According To Artwork Sounds II. The project’s lead single, “Awesome God,” featuring Bee Bar and Kabza De Small, melds deep house and amapiano elements and varnishes the soulful instrumental with a sample of Michael W Smith’s gospel classic “Awesome God” — a recurring style that reverberates on most of the first disc of the two-part LP.

Flow Jones Jr. — “Pramis, Swuh” feat. Blxckie and Maglera Doe Boy

Burgeoning rapper Flow Jones Jr. linked up with Blxckie and Maglera Doe Boy on his single “Pramis, Swuh.” Flow Jones and Blxckie trade trap-inspired bars throughout the song while setting the pace for Maglera to deliver yet another standout verse. Flow Jones Jr. caught the masses’ attention through a string of singles and a show-stopping performance on DJ Sliqe’s 2022 banger, “Sta Soft.”