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Music from Africa is very special to me because it tells the story of our great continent from east to west and from north to south. Growing up in Nigeria, I was obviously exposed to mostly Nigerian music. However, as I grew older, I began to widen my listening range of music across the African continent, which eventually led me to discover house music from South Africa.

House music from South Africa

House music from South Africa is very different from Nigerian music. From the drums to the vocals and even the dialect, it almost feels like these songs have a bit of folklore that pertains to their culture. The South African music has always been power backed with emotions from the outset of the songs of Mama Africa, Mariam Makeba, to the music and dance of the Ipitombi dancers, who won the hearts of Nigerians during the FESTAC 77; not to mention the Umbqumoti song that was played at every party in the late 1990s.

Is the South African music industry underrated on the global scale?
Busiswa Busi

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One of my favourite songs from South Africa is “Khona” by the group, Mafikizolo and Uhuru. The song was very popular across the African continent in 2012 because of its electrifying beat and its catchy hook, which got people on their feet dancing in excitement.  Despite the success of these songs, I always ask this question, Is the South African music industry playing second fiddle to Nigerian and Ghanaian music at the global music landscape?

South African artistes

We are familiar with the likes of Busiswa, Mampintsha, Babes Wodumo, DJ Maphorisa, Black Coffee and host of others for some of their smash hits, which have received airplay in Nigeria and other African countries; however, a lot of artists in this genre do not get as much recognition from the global front, compared to artists from the West African region.


Setbacks in the industry

Despite this minor setback, S.A house music within the last couple of years has made some significant strides. The movie, “Black Panther,” which broke the box office in 2018 as it brought an African superhero to the big screen for the first time, featured a few South African house music songs in the movie, such as “Wololo” by Babes Wodumo & Mampintsha. In addition, some other South African artists like Sjava had the opportunity to work with the likes of California rappers, Mozzy and Reason, on the official Black Panther album.

Beyonce’s Lion King album, which was released in July 2019 also gave a nudge to the South African house music. The likes of Moonchild Sanelly, who was widely known for the feature on the 2018 smash hit, “Makhe” with DJ Maphorisa, appeared on a track titled “My Power,” which was performed alongside Beyonce and American rapper, Tierra Whack. What is more, the song was written by S.A house artist, Busiswa.

Music is certainly a big deal in the South African market, particularly in the digital music segment. According to Statista.com, revenue in digital music currently amounts to $35 million (2019). This number is expected to grow at an annual rate of 5.2%, which would eventually result to a market value of $43 million by 2023.

As for the music industry in South Africa as a whole, it is growing day by day. According to SME South Africa, the music revenue in the country is projected to be around. R1.7 Billion ($116,158,416.00) by 2021.

With all the above data available, it is clear that music in South Africa is moving towards the right direction. The intellectual property rights protection is implemented in South Africa and it has laws to back the creativity of individuals. The Copyright Act No. 98 of 1978, which gives a person the eligibility to copyright his or her own work provided that the work is original, is just an example of a well set up structure in the South African music scene.

Is the South African music industry underrated on the global scale?
Babes Wodumo

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One can only hope that this growth in S. A’s music industry would help take more home-grown artists to the world stage in order to compete with other thriving African artists like Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage and Burna Boy.

South Africa, you are on the right track.


Paul Olele Jnr writes from Washington DC. He is a 2019 graduate of George Washington University and currently works as graduate Media and Research Intern at the Initiative for Global Development.


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