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7 Iconic SA Albums To Listen To This African Month

Take a musical journey into the history of Mzansi that will fill you with pride

BY Naledi K

May 19, 2021, 02:16 PM

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If there’s a unique-to-Africa gift, it has to be our “out of this world” relationship with music. I don’t know a person on Earth that doesn’t love music. But most importantly, I don’t know an African that doesn’t feel like music, look like music, smell like or even taste like music. 

There are a lot of things that don’t make sense in the world, but music is not one of them. Especially for Africans, our relationship with music is a connection deep enough to swallow us whole but also spiritual enough to lift us all the way up to the skies.

There's something about how music is etched so deep within us that we hear it when we celebrate,  mourn, fight, love and basically live! To be an African is basically like living in a musical, music is a part of us and us a part of it. So what better way to celebrate being an African in Africa, with music from the lives and times of South Africans. 

I know you already have the hip hop heads and amapiano stars on your playlist so, let's rather take a journey back to the albums that “defined” us and always reminded us of what it means to be South Africans.  These are some great albums to add to your playlist this African month as we celebrate the music that documents who we are at particular junctures of our lives. 

Hugh Masekela’s - Hope (1994)

Hugh Masekela is one of the greatest musicians that ever lived. This album, which features a lot of his greatest hits including Grazing In The Grass, Stimela and Market place was recorded live in 1994 at the Blues Alley in Washington DC, and it tells a story of Africa, an African in Exile and demonstrates the god-given gift of healing through music as Hugh documents the lows and highs of the times he lived in.
Also add any album by Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti, Oliver Mtukuzi and many of the greats.

Brenda Fassie -  Greatest Hits (2001)

Dubbed the Madonna of Mzansi, Brenda Fassie is one of the biggest superstars Mzansi ever witnessed. The raspy yet velvety voiced Brenda gave Mzansi some of the most iconic and timeless classics. Our parents got married to her songs and almost every year in the early 2000s, it was a record of hers that we crossed over into a new year with. Brenda gave us songs like Vulindlela and Black President, and her sound captured the mood of a young democracy in Mzansi.
Other music to add after this album is music by the likes of Bongo Maffin, Boom Shaka and Arthur Mafokate.

Zola - Khokhovula And Umdlwembe

Yeah, that’s right, I couldn’t choose just 1. Look, all of Zola’s music is amazing and inspirational and gangster and loving and everything that is us. Zola has always been a great metaphor for Mzansi. He spotted a gangster look but everyone knew he had a big heart and the essence of his good heart was clearly audible in his music. Even the “angry” songs Zola made still slapped hard and a lot of youth at the time of Zola’s prime found refuge in his music. It was the way he captured both the joy and frustrations of freedom and a relatively young democracy that made him the icon that he still is today. I know I don’t have to tell you about his hit songs but this wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t mention Stars, Mdlwembe or Don’t Cry.
After listening to the man’s whole catalogue, find yourself some Mandoza, Mapaputsi and the gang.

Mafikizolo - Sibongile (2007)

I don’t know if I’m the only one who attaches this era of music to weddings and unforgettable 21st parties but man! did we dance hand-in-hand to songs from Mafikizolo at our happiest moments. Mafikizolo gave us timeless music that will forever remind us that at our very core, we are happy people that have rhythm and love to dance. Their catchy jazz-influenced Kwaito sound with hit songs like Ndihamba Nawe and Sibongile burned itself onto the soundtrack of South Africa.
Along with this album, get you some Malaika and music from Mina Nawe.

DJ Sbu - Y-Lens Vol. 1 And DJ Cleo - Es'khaleni 

These two albums were chosen to signify the rise of Mzansi-flavoured house music. Sbu wasn’t the leader of the “movement” but that Remember When It Rained track is still a nostalgic gem of note and DJ Cleo? Well, he was a movement on his own. That guy made Mzansi dance and it didn’t matter if you were young or old, his music made everyone bop their heads. What is more African than being unable to resist the power of song?
Look, just type “nostalgic Mzansi house music” on iTunes or other music streaming platforms) and let the music have its way with you.