The 20 Best South African Songs of the Month (February)

Featuring Nasty C, Focalistic, Kabza De Small, Blxckie, Jobe London and more.

Here are the South African songs and music videos that caught our attention this month.

Follow our MZANSI HEAT playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Kabza De Small “Sponono” (featuring Wizkid, Burna Boy, Cassper Nyovest and Madumane)

Amapiano frontrunner Kabza De Small has finally unlocked the music video to one of the many standout songs off of his chart-topping debut album I Am The Piano King: Sweet & Dust. The animated clip for "Sponono" sees the artists perform the song inside a moving train and Madumane (DJ Maphorisa) spinning a Gusheshe.

Focalistic & Davido “Ke Star” (Remix) (featuring Vigro Deep)

Focalistic is on a mission to take "Pina Tsa Ko Kasi" and amapiano to the world. After spending the past few months performing in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria, the musician has unleashed the remix to his platinum selling single "Ke Star" featuring Nigerian superstar Davido. This is not the first time Davido flirts with amapiano, as exhibited on his A Better Time album, and he sure delivers a strong verse on the Vigro Deep-produced beat.

Nasty C “Black & White” (featuring Ari Lennox)

Nasty C released the music video to "Black & White" featuring American R&B/Soul sensation Ari Lennox. Directed by Kyle White, the visuals portray a couple in a long-distance relationship, with Nasty C being in Cape Town while Ari Lennox is in Washington DC. The song, taken from rapper's latest album Zulu Man With Some Power, has also been selected to be the opener of the album, Rhythms of Zamunda: Music Inspired By Coming 2 America.

Blxckie “Stripes” (featuring Flvme)

On his first release for the year, Blxckie teams up with Flvme on the Hercule$-produced cut "Stripes". Over a mellow and trippy instrumental, the pair melodically sing-rap about getting acceptance and respect for the work they've put in. Blxckie, as one of hottest new wave rappers out right now, expresses this best in the song's hook; "I've been through heaven and hell, it's alright / I feel like a zebra, oh yeah, I got stripes".

Soul T iDyan “Bhuda Laway” (featuring Bravo Le Roux)

On "Bhuda Laway," new wave Xhosa rappers Soul T and Bravo Le Roux ooze braggadocio grootman (dyan) energy. The pair go from rapping about taking people's girlfriends to detailing how they're repping Xhosa (t)rap and "taking over". The track sees the rappers collaborate for the second time, after working together on Bravo Le Roux's "Main Road".

Ayanda Jiya “Love Me” (featuring Kwesta)

R&B songstress Ayanda Jiya releases her first single since her well-received 2019 album, Ayandastand. "Love Me" features a precise verse from rapper Kwesta and is produced by the singer/songwriter's frequent collaborator Zephbeats. The song is the preceding single to her forthcoming album QUEEN, which is slated for release on April 23rd and has Flvme, A-Reece and Stogie T as featured artists.

Stogie T “Dunno” (featuring Nasty C)

Directors Amr Singh & Lazarusman borrow from horror movies for the video of "Dunno". Nasty C and Stogie T hold hostage and torment an "internet thug" who tweeted his disapproval of the song. The visuals play out until it appears that it was all in the hater's head, or was it?

Intaba Yase Dubai “S’bali”

Intaba Yase Dubai has finally released his first single since signing with Ambitiouz Entertainment. The talented musician delivers his signature harmonies and vivid storytelling on the song, produced by his longtime producer, Dee R. "S'bali" captures the emotions of a love-struck individual who promises, from a distance, to marry his love interest and wishes to be a s'bali (brother-in-law) to her brothers.

iPhupha L’ka Biko “uThixo uKhona”

For their official debut single, iPhupha L'ka Biko repurposes igwijo (political struggle song) "uThixo Ukhona" (translated to "God exists") to make it a modern jazz record. The saxophone-led song brings forth the statement that God does exist, and goes on to encourage that, as such, black people will succeed despite the hardships they go through. While "uThixo Ukhona" is their debut single, the pan-African band has been active in live music spaces since 2015 and was recently featured on the Indaba Is compilation.

Beast “Pepereza” (featuring Reece Madlisa, Zuma, DJ Tira and Busta 929)

Durban and Joburg converge as versatile rapper Beast enlists Reece Madlisa and Zuma for his new single "Pepereza". The artists effortlessly float on the Busta 929-produced amapiano beat, and each of them uses their verses to dismiss naysayers.

Busta 929 “Ekseni” (featuring Boohle and Zuma)

Prolific producer Busta 929 has released a follow-up to the platinum selling smash hit "Umsebenzi Wethu". Enlisting the talents of vocalists Boohle and Zuma, "Ekseni" sees Busta step out as a lead solo act, after releasing a collaborative EP and co-producing a lot of hit songs with Mr JazziQ last year.

Killer Kau & Mr JazziQ “Amaneighbour” (featuring Reece Madlisa, Zuma and ThackzinDJ)

"Kataliya" hitmaker Killer Kau is back with a new single titled "Amaneighbour". The soaring bassline of the song is complemented by the addictive chants laced by Killer Kau, Reece Madlisa and Zuma. The song poses to be a street anthem and will surely get amapiano lovers dancing.

King Deetoy, Kabza De Small & DJ Maphorisa “The Calling” (featuring Mhaw Keys)

The Scorpion Kings rope in producer/deejay King Deetoy into the duo's continuous run, in their latest collab EP aptly titled Petle Petle (named after a viral video of Kabza De Small mimicking how Afro-tech sounds). "The Calling" merges the spacey repetitive synths and minimal vocalisation of Afro-tech with the log drum. The EP seeks to find a sweet spot between afrotech and amapiano, or perhaps brings forth what Major League DJz called "tech-piano" during a recent interview.

Jobe London “Injalo Lento” (featuring Killer Kau, Zuma and G-Snap)

Labelmates Jobe London, Killer Kau and G-Snap join forces with Amaroto's Zuma for the rumbling club cut. "Injalo Lento", directly translated to "it is what it is", speaks on living life to the fullest and having fun without worrying much about life's challenges.

Worst Behaviour “Samba Ngolayini” (Remix) (featuring DJ Lag, Gento Bareto, OkMalumKoolkat, Beast, Tipcee and DJ Tira)

Gqom duo Worst Behaviour assembles an all-star line up for the remix of their single "Samba Ngolayini" which was originally released in December 2020. The music video matches the song's high energy and contains a couple of shots of the artists dancing.

Bee DeeJay “Ndincede” (featuring Rhass, Mshayi & Mr Thela)

Cape Town deejay and producer Bee DeeJay taps Mshayi, Mr Thela and fast rising gqom vocalist Rhass for his first single of the year. "Ndincede'' is a mid-tempo gqom number which makes use of the signature Mshayi and Mr Thela bassline and church-like melodies. The lyrics are a call for help from the Lord and Rhass cleverly interpolates a line from the hook of Thebe's "Groovers Prayer".

Stino Le Thwenny “Mshimane 2.0” (featuring K.O, Major League Djz & Khuli Chana)

Burgeoning rap duo Stino Le Thwenny call up Major League Djz, K.O and Khuli Chana to rework their single "Mshimane". The duo kept their original verses, but they still manage to hold their own against highly impressive verses from the two veteran MCs.

Nue_Sam “Vuyolwethu” (featuring Buhlebendalo)

1020 Cartel's Nue_Sam, with the help of Buhlebendalo, released her debut single "Vuyolwethu". The poet delivers compelling and heartfelt words, touching on depression and anxiety. The song continues to showcase Nue_Sam's prowess in spoken word, with powerful lines like, "I don't just smile for no reason like before / My happiness now lasts for three minutes or four / Tears...well tears always! Always pour!"

AKA “Finessin'”

AKA plays the role of a 'good guy' in the cinematic visuals for his new single "Finessin'", taken from his latest EP Bhovamania. (Read more about it here)

Robin Thirdfloor “Ndosi”

Alternative hip-hop artist Robin Thirdfloor takes a different sonic direction on "Ndosi," which successfully blends electronic sounds with elements of amapiano. The catchy song references a character, by the same name, from popular South African 90s drama series (Ubambo Lwam). Robin is seeking his money ("iphi imali yam?") from Ndosi, who on the TV show owed a well known gangster.

Follow our MZANSI HEAT playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Image: Courtesy TIFF

Jenna Cato Bass is Capturing the Horrors of an Unhealed Nation

The film marks the South African director's third debut and stride towards making a name for herself in the international film circuit.

Ever since premiering her debut film, Love the One You Love, which won the Best Feature Film at the Jozi Festival in 2015, Jenna Cato Bass has been a name to watch on the international film festival circuit. Her 2017 feature, High Fantasy, was the first of her films to land on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup, followed by Flatland in 2019. Her latest offering, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), debuted at TIFF in September of 2021 — marking her third time at the esteemed Canadian film event.

Often provocative, always thought-provoking, Bass' films have come to establish her as a director who looks at South Africa's youth, the lives they're living and the future that awaits them, with a nuanced, open-minded lens. For the first time in her career, Bass uses the genre of horror to dig into an enduring mark of the country's past — that of the fraught, complex relationship between madam and domestic worker, in Mlungu Wam (Good Madam). Set in Cape Town, the film follows the unusual, disturbing things that start happening when a young woman moves back in with her estranged mother, who is the longtime caretaker for a rich, white household.

Bass also co-wrote the film Tug of War (Vuta N'Kuvute), which became Tanzania's first film to be selected for TIFF this year, and she co-wrote Rafiki, which was Kenya's first film at TIFF in 2018.

She spoke to OkayAfrica about playing in a new genre and her hopes for African cinema.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

This story revolves around the relationship between a domestic worker and her 'madam.' What made you want to make a film about this subject?

When I make films, I like the concept to revolve around something that we all have in common - because, despite the many fractures in our society, these shared places exist. And in South Africa, we felt that everyone - in some way or another - has been deeply affected by domestic work and domestic workers, who are a keystone in our society's structure. Additionally, the 'maid' and 'madam' relationship is the ultimate symbol of race relations in South Africa - as well as how they haven't changed significantly, despite almost thirty years of democracy. So a domestic worker was the perfect character around which to centre a South African horror.

The genre of horror works really well to explore this subject and tell this story — when did you know it would be the genre you'd want to use?

The early stages of developing a film aren't always linear for me. I'll be thinking about a genre I'm interested in, and then parallel to that I'll have an idea for a story or a character, and later on, will realize that these pieces all fit together. In this case, I'd been wanting to make a horror film for ages, but hadn't found the right story… until I had the idea for Mlungu Wam, and I realized I was finally ready to try this genre.

What challenges did you face in making a horror?

It was my first time working in this genre, and it was intimidating because there's no saving you if you fail. We were also working on a very, very limited budget, so it wasn't possible to show as much as we'd like to - but then again, this story was all about the subjective and the unseen, so I did as much research and planning as we could, and just had to trust it would work.

Where did you film, and did that have any impact on the process at all?

We filmed in a house in Cape Town, in a gated community in the Southern Suburbs. The house and the environment had a major impact on the film - especially because we were also quarantining there for the full 7 weeks of rehearsal and shooting. The house was our set and our accommodation, so it was very intense, very claustrophobic, and very triggering for many of our team members.

How did you and co-writer Babalwa Baartman work on the story? You've included cast members in the writing process in your previous work — did you do that here too?

Mlungu Wam was made along similar lines to my first two films, Love The One You Love and High Fantasy, where we started with an outline, cast actors, then workshopped the characters collaboratively before completing the story breakdown and using improv for the dialogue. Babalwa and I had worked together using this method on a short film we made in 2019 called Sizohlala. She really understands the process, and it was a really rewarding experience exploring the story with her and our cast.

How did Kristina Ceyton, who produced the excellent acclaimed horrors The Babadook and The Nightingale, through Causeway Films, come to be involved in this film?

I had met Sam Jennings, who is also a producer with Causeway Films, several years ago at a festival. We really connected and kept in touch over the years, sharing our work, and hoping there'd be a chance to collaborate. So when we were developing Mlungu Wam, I pitched her and Kristina the concept and they were immediately supportive. It has been a massive pleasure working with them both.

Your films are known to venture into themes of identity and healing from the past — how does this film speak to that?

Mlungu Wam is definitely about this too - it's a story about three generations of women (actually four, if you include Tsidi's grandmother, who is an unseen character in the film), how they are haunted by the past and eventually refuse to remain chained any longer. Their healing is collective, linked to each other, and wouldn't be possible for them alone as individuals.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

You've been at TIFF before - how has your experience of it been this year, with it being a hybrid of virtual and in-person?

Things have been quieter and a bit harder to navigate, but the TIFF staff have done incredible work getting the festival off the ground, despite endless challenges. It has felt very surreal to be here, and a privilege - and inspiring too, that we can still get together to celebrate films, even though our world is in such a mess. We had over 200 (socially distanced) people at our last screening, and that was an amazing feeling.

Yours is one of few African films on this year's line-up - is there anything you'd like to see happen to try improve that?

Regarding African cinema, TIFF has a real range of films this year, across several sections. Compared to many other festivals, they seem really invested in supporting cinema from the continent. Of course, this could be better, but it's also an example to other festivals who claim there aren't enough African films, that this is clearly not the case.

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