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The 13 Best South African Songs of the Month

South African songs that caught our attention this month featuring AKA, YoungstaCPT, TRESOR, Nakhane and more.

Our list of the best South African songs of the month includes new singles that dropped in January (and late December) alongside those that were highlighted by getting the visual treatment.

Check out our selections below, which feature TRESOR, AKA, Revivolution and Mx Blouse among others.

The list is in no particular order.


TRESOR ft. AKA “Electric Night”

The latest single to TRESOR's new album, Nostalgia, lives up to the project's name. It references '80s disco and South Africa's bubblegum, a sound AKA, who's featured in the song, has been experimenting with.

Check out TRESOR's new album, Nostalgia, here.

YoungstaCPT “Own 2019”

YoungstaCPT's "Own 2019" was produced by Psyko Beats, who has produced all the previous "Own…" songs. In the trach, YoungstaCPT is in his element, telling his story using accessible metaphors, similes and punchlines.

RMBO (ft. Siya Shezi, Scarface Manolo & Khaz Money) “Vibe”

"Vibe" is the first single to RMBO's upcoming project, which will be titled 20/20. The song features Siya Shezi, Khaz Money and Scarface Manolo (from the band RADIO 123), and is classic kwaito as you loved it in the 90s, from the slow tempo to the big bassl ine and the bounce that can't be described but felt.

Read more about RMBO's upcoming project here.

Revivolution “Skyf” (feat. Revivo, illy, Ferno, Tony & fuSion)

In their latest single "Skyf," members of Revivolution take turns to deliver potent verses over a bass-heavy trap instrumental that leads with a recurring 8-bit tingle.

AKA ft Yanga Chief “Jika”

"Jika" is the latest single from AKA's 2019 album, the platinum-certified Touch My Blood. "Jika," which features Yanga Chief, is popstar-AKA in full force, as the artist croons over an instrumental that is a fit for wedding dance routines. In the video, AKA and Yanga are living their best lives as grown versions of themselves.

Mx Blouse “No Match”

Mx Blouse released their first single of 2019, which is about getting over someone who they were with. The song has a heavy kwaito influence, and is accompanied by a stunning video that exhibits the power of minimalism.

Nakhane ft. ANOHNI “New Brighton”

In his latest single, Nakhane asks why places in South Africa still bear their colonial names. In typical Nakhane fashion, the lyrics are subtle and you can miss their meaning if you don't listen attentively enough.

Tellaman (ft. Shekhinah & Nasty C) “Whipped”

Three of the hottest young artists from Durban get together for a lovely tune that feels like the warm Durban see breeze. Taking a leaf from 80s' pop sonically, "Whipped" sees Tellaman, Shekhinah and Nasty C admit to being so in love nothing else matters.

Shane Eagle “Ride Dolo-What You Wanna Be”

An outstanding double barrel from Shane Eagle's latest EP, Never Grow Up, "Ride Dolo-What You Wanna Be" sees Shane muse about different aspects of his life from the love of his life, and how his career has taken off, as he rides dolo in his Polo.

Robin Thirdfloor “Ayashisa Amateku”

On "Ayashisa Amateku," Robin Thirdlfloor sticks to his mashup of hip-hop, kwaito and electronic music, which he has explored in his previous projects. The song is light-hearted and in it, the MC flexes his moves and touches on his love for kicks.

PatricKxxLee (ft. Costa Tich) “No No No”

PatricKxxLee and Costa Tich share a lean offbeat bass-laden instrumental and populate all that space with their big personalities and energetic rhymes in this new single.

Read: PatricKxxLee's Latest Album 'Nowhere Child' Is Depression Without the Glamor

DJ Citi Lyts “Cel’ Ukuthi” (ft. Touchline, Gigi Lamayne and Red Button)

"Cel' Ukuthi" is a new age kwaito banger that should be your jam as you celebrate what's left of the summer. Citi Lyts assembles an unexpected team team of rappers that, however, makes a lot of sense and sound great together. While sweating on the dance floor to this song, don't overlook the bars on display on here.

Thesis ZA “IIntloni” (feat. Sky Dladla)

Cape Town jazz-soul duo Thesis ZA are a serious force of nature. Their latest single "Iintloni," displays their effortless and powerful vocals and their chemistry. The song was inspired by Feminist scholar and author Dr Pumla Gqola's book on Simphiwe Dana titled, A Renegade Called Simphiwe.

Yugen Blakrok "Picture Box"

Yugen Blakrok's latest single from her upcoming sophomore album is as raw as its catchy. The MC takes a swipe at the idiot box and provides alternatives to sitting and staring at a screen for most of your life.


Interview
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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