Thandi Ntuli. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The Best South African Music of The Month

The SA songs you need to hear this month, featuring Thandi Ntuli, Batuk, The Muffinz, Sun-El Musician & More

Every month, we highlight the best tracks, videos, albums, EPs and mixtapes from South Africa through our Best South African Music column.

This month saw a torrent of releases from artists of all genres, and below we list what impressed our ears, in no particular order. We opted to make things easier for you and split our picks into two sections: Tracks & Videos and Albums & EPs.

Read ahead for the Best SA Music of the Month.

Tracks and Videos

Stilo Magolide "A Minute" (ft. Jay Claude)

Stilo Magolide's latest single, "A Minute," from his 2017 album is a fitting release for the month of love. It references old-school R&B; through a hook sung by Jay Claude over mellow keys, and lovey-dovey rhymes by Stilo.

Blaklez ft. Cassper Nyovest "Saka Nyuka"

Blaklez and Cassper Nyovest do this new age kwaito thing so well, you wonder why they won't just record a collaborative album already. "Saka Nyuka" is perfect in all ways imaginable. It just deserved a better video.

The Muffinz "Where You Are"

After shedding their bassist Karabo Moeketsi in 2017, The Muffinz' music has taken a more electronic route than their previous offerings. The soul is not lost, though. "Where You Are" is built around a funky guitar melody, which is completed by vocals that vary in texture.

Batuk "Move!"

"Move!" is an oxymoron in that it's nostalgic and futuristic at the same time—it's EDM, kwaito and pop all in one. Nothing unexpected with Spoek Mathambo on the boards. The band's lead vocalist Manteiga dominates the song with her personality on her two verses and the hook, while Spoek appears on one verse with his swaggering delivery.

Big Star "Time Of My Life"

Raising a middle finger to the rules and what's popular, Big Star proves he's more than a rapper. The celebratory "Time of my Life" boasts trumpet squelches, ambient keys and bass lines, with 808s to give it the 2018 feel. This is Big Star, and South African mainstream hip-hop, like you've never heard before.

Nakhane "Presbyteria"

Nakhane is a god—his layered vocals on the first single to his upcoming album are smooth yet candid. And they are accompanied by eerie piano keys and a thumping kick.

Kid Tini "Movie"

By now you should know that Kid Tini's throwing jabs at A-Reece on his latest single. This is Kid Tini at his cockiest and that makes for great egocentric raps, which we are here for. Tini is a seasoned lyricist at just 20.

Deslynn Malotana "Black Love" (ft. Andy Mkosi)

"Black Love" is oozing with soul and lyrics rooted in self-love. A smooth verse from the rapper Andy Mkosi completes what the singer set out to accomplish.

Priddy Ugly "02Hero" (ft. Shane Eagle)

Priddy Ugly released the Shane Eagle-assisted "02Hero," the strongest song from his debut album E.G.Y.P.T, as a single. The song's accompanied by an impressive music video, which is as fancy as the two rapper's verses and the bass-heavy instrumental they flex over.

Sun-El Musician "Bamthathile" (ft. Mlindo)

After the smashing success of his 2017 single with Samthing Soweto, "Akanamali," Sun-El Musician returns with another potential hit. The recipe is the same—sing blues about the downs of love over electronic production with touches of soul and a distinct South African sound. This will blow up. Just watch.

Saudi "Make You Proud"

From his stellar debut album, D.R.U.G.S Inc, Saudi drops "Make You Proud" as a single with a fitting video. "Make You Proud" is relatable because who doesn't want to make their parent(s) proud?

Da L.E.S "Train Rides"

"Train Rides" is clearly not about train rides—the rapper, for the single's video, is on a private jet eating Chicken Licken and drinking bottles you and I can't afford; like, fam, it doesn't get any triller. North God is indeed a god.

Stogie T "Honey and Pain"

Stogie T's video for his latest single "Honey and Pain" is a showcase of the man's globetrotting tendencies. He raps about the dichotomies of poverty and wealth over a Miriam Makeba sample.

B3nchMarQ "Wifey"

"Wifey" is B3nchMarQ as we've grown to know them—a combination of melodies and raps over eardrum-wracking trap beats, and it sounds like money.

Riky Rick "Pick You Up" (ft. A-Reece)

The latest single from Stay Shining, Riky Rick's 2017 EP, features a show-stealing verse from A-Reece and authoritative presence from King Kotini.

Nelz "Backseat Loving"

Nelz' "Backseat Loving" is steamy both lyrically ("Started with a handshake, now you making my knees shake") and sonically—nothing says 'sexy' more than those airy pads and that thick bass line that pretty much carries the song.

Albums and EPs

Zaki Ibrahim The Secret Life of Planets

Zaki Ibrahim just released her first album since 2012's Every Opposite. The Secret Life of Planets has a vintage soul and R&B; feel to it, with sprinkles of both nostalgia and future by way of synthesizers and 808s. The singer tells stories of love and being, using a lot of scientific references.

Professor Composed By Jesus

Durban kwaito star Professor sticks to his guns on his third album, Composed By Jesus. There's nothing innovative or new here—the party is still going on the way it does in Durban. Expect synth-based kwaito dance floor packers with lean bass lines and high-tempo drums. The lyrics are tongue-in-cheek and designed to be memorized on first listen as per Durban kwaito fashion.

Thandi Ntuli Exiled

Jazz musician Thandi Ntuli's sophomore album is a collection of impressive compositions by the artist and her collaborators. Unlike on her debut album The Offering (2014), Ntuli sings more on Exiled. She even renders some spoken word. And that Lebo Mashile appearance is monumental.

Mabuta Welcome To This World

This is one of the most dynamic jazz albums you'll hear in a very long time. Horns are dominant here, but to elude monotony, the rhythms and textures are varied. There's a lot of layers embedded in the albums' eight tracks to chew on.

Radio 123 Manga Manga

The Joburg-based duo call their genre Mandela Pop, because, according to them, it's a sound that reflects the rainbow spectrum that South Africa has become. On Manga Manga, they blend pop, jazz, funk, rock and even hip-hop. If you are educated enough to understand IsiZulu and kasi slang, you'll sure get a full experience of what Radio 123 are about—celebrating who they are without defining it or caring if you understand it.

Espacio Dios Percussive Planet

Percussive Planet is Espacio Dios' most focused project to date, and a culmination of the artist's genre bending attempts. The project boasts drums and percussion that support thumping electronic bass lines and synths, pads and marimbas.

Cara Frew Flame

A majority of the lyrics on Cara Frew's album, Flame, explore the dynamics of love. This she does over a pop and EDM soundscape that's characterized by breezy pads and crude synths, which makes this a great project for a night out, a road trip and the club.

Zingah For The Level

Zingah, formerly Smashis, is one of those few artists who managed to make a worthy comeback after a hiatus. He sounds up-to-date without being a caricature of what's currently popular. On For The Level, his first project since his transition, he brags ("I can hit up Maphorisa to send it to Diplo for a remix, now that's a plug") and sends subliminals ("All I hear is rich n*ggas making poor music") like it's not a thing. He has seriously solid features too—A-Reece and KLY shine! And the beats knock really hard.

Moonga K Wild Solace

According to Moonga K, we are all just walking emojis. Wild Solace is just another instance of modern music that can't be boxed into one genre. You hear more than two genres in one song even. If you are looking for honest lyrics and a dynamic vocal spectrum, Wild Solace is for you.

Image courtesy of 'The Spread'

'The Spread' Is the Sex-Positive Kenyan Podcast Offering a Safe Space for Women and LGBTQIA+ Issues

'The Spread' is the podcast dedicated to "decolonizing" the way Africans talk about sex and sexuality, say it's creator Karen Kaz Lucas.

Karen Kaz Lucas is the revolutionary brainchild behind Africa's best-known sex positive podcast, The Spread. Three years in, the 52 podcast episodes, covering a range of diverse topics including: The Male-Female Pleasure Gap, Sex positive parenting, LGBTQIA+ issues, Kink, Reproductive Rights, and Porn vs. Reality, has listeners ranging from 6,000 to 21,000 and episode on SoundCloud.

Recently, The Spread had its first major event TheSpreadFest, a day-long event attracting over 600 people with diverse panels, workshops and more. It's been hailed as a truly safe and inclusive space for people of all sexual identities. Okayafrica contributor, Ciku Kimeria speaks to The Spread creator Kaz on her journey to decolonize sexuality, her motivation, and her hopes for the continent relating to matters of sex and sexuality.

Read the conversation below.

Karen Kaz LucasImage courtesy of 'The Spread'

What made you start The Spread podcast?

It was to address the key gaps in discussions around sex and sexuality and to create a safe space to discuss them. Younger people were either learning about sex from porn or on the flip side from a religious standpoint or the education system, where the focus is on the risks of engaging in sex (teen pregnancy, STIs etc). As such they were either getting information from a fear-based system, shame-based system or porn that has very little to do with real life sexual situations and intimacy. I wanted to create a safe space where people could talk about all issues related to sexuality but in an open, accepting and enlightening way. For me, this is an informal form of sex education that allows people to explore their sexuality from an unbiased perspective—no judgement, no shaming.

What's the reception been like so far?

The reception has been overwhelmingly positive. I had no idea that the podcast would grow and be as successful as it is now. People are hungry to meet similar people and have discussions without judgement. Of course, there are also people who react negatively to my work and say that this is a result of "Western influence." To those people, I say that they should know that the majority of my work is focused on decolonizing sexuality.

Great transition. I first saw the term "decolonizing sexuality" in your Instagram bio. What exactly does that mean?

Prior to Western intrusion, we already had our own sexual culture. I'm trying to remind people that certain things we embrace as "African" and defend when it comes to sex and sexuality, are elements that came to us through religion, Westernized education etc. The shame associated with sex and sexuality on the continent are remnants of Western teachings.

Prior to colonization many ethnic groups had religious healers who were neither considered male nor female but were gender fluid or intersex. There were ethnic groups that didn't base gender on anatomy but on energy. Gender fluidity on the continent was observed even more than you would find in the most liberal country right now. For some, you could physically have male features but possess female energy and live as a woman. Some people worshipped androgynous or intersex deities and believed that the perfect human being is both male and female. Certain tribes did not ascribe a gender to anyone until the age of puberty. In other communities, their priests were transgender, and they were the only ones who could conduct certain spiritual ceremonies. There is evidence that for several ethnic groups gay and lesbian relationships were not taboo. Unfortunately, a lot of this history has not been publicized or it is being revised as it does not fit in well with the idea that the continent is trying to now uphold as a patriarchal, heteronormative society. That is why the work of decolonizing sexuality is extremely important as we now have a generation that is open to questioning themselves. The generation of our parents lived in a time of oppressed and suppressed sexuality (among other things) as they themselves or their parents had suffered the colonial rape and pillage [both literally and metaphorically] of their lives. All they could carry was anger and fear. To survive they had to conform to what the oppressor enforced on them through religion, western education etc.

[Recently deceased] Kenyan writer and gay activist, Binyavanga Wainaina clearly outlines how it is only former British colonies that have anti-sodomy laws, which came during colonial times from the fear that British soldiers and colonial administrators would be corrupted by the natives while they were away from their wives. The law, the fears by the British government at the time, really are proof that some of the natives were already practicing sodomy.

Image courtesy of 'The Spread'

What for you is the link between sex positive work and women's empowerment?

The average person might think that the type of work I'm doing is frivolous, but the reality is that when a society believes they have any right over women's bodies, we see all the terrible things that happen to women: rape, rampant femicide, violence against women and more. Reclaiming your sexuality as a woman is about asserting your own authority over your body—declaring the right to fulfilling, consensual sex of your own liking, the right to having children, or not having children if you don't want to, postponing or terminating a pregnancy. Once we accept the policing of women's bodies, it's a slippery slope.

Feminism is about women having equal rights and opportunities as men, and that also extends to their sex lives. My body, my choice. For those who are always ready to bash feminism, seeing it as women somehow trying to take over, dominate men, oppress men etc. They should realize that the only reason feminism exists, is because we live in a patriarchal world. Women are at the bottom of the rung, oppressed in thousands of ways. All we are trying to do, is get the same rights that men take for granted. Of course, to the ones who hold power, it will feel like a loss of power.

This is the reason why the topics we cover span everything from women's sexual pleasure to gender-based violence to LGBTQIA+ rights to women's reproductive health. All these discussions must happen in tandem.

Let's talk about the state of affairs in Kenya around various key issues, starting with female reproductive rights.

I'm working very closely with two organizations working on women's reproductive rights and abortion rights. The problem in Kenya is that there is so much misinformation. I plan to release a video very soon on the topic. I only recently found out all public hospitals in Kenya provide post-abortal care. Even though, abortions are illegal except in certain circumstances, post-abortal care is available throughout the country. Lack of information makes women especially vulnerable to the influence of quacks, back-alley doctors, or police who threaten them with imprisonment if they don't pay exorbitant bribes. The Kenyan law is that you are not allowed to administer an abortion unless the health of the mother or child is in danger. Health also includes mental health. As such, people with severe depression or suicidal thoughts do legally qualify for abortions, but most people don't know this.

Image courtesy of 'The Spread'

What about on the issue of sexual violence against women and children?

Sexual violence against women and children isn't taken as seriously as it should be. Sensitivity training across police stations is still lacking. Rape is extremely underreported in the country as most people don't expect to be treated with discretion, sensitivity or any consideration once they do get into the system. I did a whole video series years back interviewing female rape survivors and their experiences highlight the challenges with our police system including the trivialization of the crime by police officers who consider rape almost routine, given how often this happens. The statistics are masking the issue, rape survivors don't know who to turn to and feel completely isolated. The issues of male sexual violence against men isn't even spoken about as the survivors fear further shunning and stigmatization from society. Kenya doesn't yet have the right structures—including mental health structures—to deal with the normalization of rape and sexual violence against women.

In 2015 three men gangraped a teenage girl as she was on her way home from her grandfather's funeral. After the attack, they dumped her in an open sewer, leaving her with a spinal injury that has confined her to a wheelchair. When the men were taken to the police station, their punishment was to cut the grass around the police station. The incident made it to the news, sparking international outrage, resulting in a signed petition and leading to protests in the country demanding #justiceforliz. As a result, the men were eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison. While we can celebrate this particular win, it also makes us reflect on all the other hundreds of thousands of cases, where the survivors remain silent or seek justice, but never get it.

What about LGBTQIA+ rights?

The definition I adhere to for this group is actually a longer, more confusing acronym, but also one I hope makes more people feel included. LGBTQQIAPPK, which is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual & transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, polyamourous, pansexual and kink.

We have some cause for celebration, but also a very long way to go. We were hopeful recently when the High Court reviewed the key law banning gay sex, but unfortunately, they chose to uphold it. Last year, we did have a small win when the courts deemed unlawful the use of forced anal exams to test whether two men had sex.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights commission of Kenya are doing a really great job in trying to get colonial era penal codes repealed. They are the legal team behind the court cases for the repeal of these laws. From a legal standpoint it's great, but from a social standpoint, it's still so sad that our binary understanding of gender is tied to what the colonizers forced on us. The worst argument is when people say that any deviation from the heteronormative narrative is "un-African." My question then is "Do you really know your history? Are you willing to educate yourself and to take off the yoke of colonialism and even consider the idea that what you consider normal is based on systems that came to you through oppression and repression?

For a country that is so progressive in many ways, this particular issue still remains an uphill battle.

Image courtesy of 'The Spread'

What about women's sexuality, sexual pleasure?

All the events we have are 95% women. Men are scared to admit they might not know it all. Society paints them to be macho and [makes them think] that they should somehow know it all, but they are scared to learn about their sexuality as they feel that it will take away from their masculinity. For women, it's empowering. Men are frightened about women learning and embracing their sexuality.

I want to be a part of this revolution, spearheading it on the continent.

Finally, tell us about The Spread Fest and your plans for it?

Our objective for the festival is to foster learning, inspiration and wonder—and to spark conversations that matter. The aim is to be more empathetic about our diversity, but also to leave people knowing more about sex and sexuality. This year we had 600 people in attendance, 5 panels, one workshop and it was a full day event. Next year, we plan to double everything.

Photos by Getty Images for BET.

Africa at the BET Awards 2019: Dispatches from the Blue Carpet

We talked to Burna Boy, AKA, DJ Cuppy and more about representing their people and remembering Nipsey Hussle.

We were at the 19th annual BET Awards this past Sunday to check out the ceremonies and chat up the international artists walking the blue carpet.

BET is the world's biggest platform for Black music and it has officially gone global. If you've never been, there's a feeling of organized chaos in the air that makes you feel like you're a part of something big. Artists from Africa and the diaspora have come a long way at the award show—once relegated to a non-televised role, the "Best International Act" award is now part of the 3-hour televised main ceremony for the second year.

This year the nominees contained many of OkayAfrica's favorites, including this year's winner, Burna Boywhose award was accepted by his mom, with a message of connectedness to the continent: "Remember you were Africans before you became anything else."

READ: The Internet Doesn't Know Mama Burna At All

Held at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, the BET Awards hosted over 30 artists from the African continent. We caught up with many of them on the blue carpet including AKA, DJ Cuppy, Mr Eazi, Nomzamo Mbatha and Monalonga Shozi just to name a few. Under the June heat, African performers, presenters and nominees came to show out.

One of the big themes of the night was honoring slain Eritrean-American hip hop star Nipsey Hussle's life and legacy.

Burna Boy and Stefflon Don at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

When we asked him about it on the blue carpet, Burna Boy—dressed in an elegant Dolce and Gabbana two piece ensemble in emerald green and golden overtones—says:

"You never stop wanting to hear the work of black artists do you? After Nipsey's death, it was both an inspiration and a wake up call. This is the time to spread positivity and love because you never know man, you could be gone tomorrow. He left behind a great legacy and we're just going to carry it forward."

"Nipsey's death was really felt all over Africa," South African personality Mbatha tells us. Dressed in an original full floor length A-line dress made by South African designer Loin Cloth & Ashes, she remembers, "It wasn't just that he was an African, which he was, but he showed us that we still have flames in our community that we hope will never burn out. Thank God that flames like Nelson Mandela lived for as long as it has, because each generation picked up that flame and was able to believe we can make it out and when we do make it out, we can fight to make other people's lives better."

Nomzamo Mbatha at the 2019 BET Awards 2019. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

AKA at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

South African rap superstar AKA tells us just before the opening to the ceremony, "With me coming from South Africa, BET is all about black excellence and of course Black excellence is all about Africa. Everybody is on a wave right now recognizing the importance of African culture and the importance of where it comes from. Africa is the source of Black excellence."

The Nigerian Afro-fusion star Mr Eazi, another Best International Act nominee also met up with us outside. "As long as music is being made by Black people, African people will never stop being brilliant," he told us. "Most of the people from Africa that come to the BET Awards, about a good 60 percent come from Nigeria. I feel like this needs to be a Nigerian awards show. Maybe next year we'll just buy it up and make it a Nigerian show."

Mr Eazi at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

DJ Cuppy at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET.

Nomalanga Shozi at the 2019 BET Awards. Photo by Getty Images for BET

Another big Nigerian name, DJ Cuppy, acted as a blue carpet host. "When I travel around the world," she says, "I feel like people are more invested in their roots. People are more engaged with where they come from and where they families come from and they're interested in learning about other cultures like never before."

"I'm all about taking Africa to the world but it think its just as important to bring the world back to Africa," Cuppy continues. "It's important that we're stressing connecting and do what we can to keep a strong community and making sure people know that we're all in this together."

TV personality and actress, Nomalanga Shozi tells us, "You have to recognize yourself as who you are. Honor yourself first then you can project that to the world. I think it's very important for us to honor ourselves and the BET Awards does that is such a grand fashion every year."

In the BET International section of the blue carpet, Nigeria-native Alex Okosi, the head of BET International shared a final thought on the important of awards shows. "It's a platform to elevate our people," he says. "Being able to showcase to the world our true power which is the power of Black culture is as important now then ever before."


Seba Kaapstad Is the Genre-Bending South African Jazz Band Spreading a Message of Optimism

We speak to two of the quartet's members about their latest album 'Thina.'

This profile is part of OkayAfrica's ongoing series on South Africa's new wave of young artists shaping the future of the country's music scene. You can read more profiles and interviews here.

Thina, Seba Kaapstad's sophomore album, is an anomalous body of work that smudges the lines between genres effortlessly. It's a huge departure from the South African four-member jazz group's debut album, 2016's Tagore's. "We are people that are genuinely interested in music and the impact that music has, and we are people that love to experiment and explore," says group member Zoë Modiga. "With Pheel (the group's newest member) hopping onto the band for production, it created so much more color than there was before."

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