What music is played in South Africa? South Africa shares several success stories with the music industry top ranking for its endless hitmakers. The entertainment sector continues to flourish locally and internationally with a renewed spark of energy. Both old and latest South African songs are exciting for their composition and relaxing play which captivates a greater audience. So, which are the best South African songs of all time?
Music fanatics are almost always on the lookout for hit songs on South African music charts. However, it is often difficult for most of them to identify favourite tunes from a forest of albums out there. A hunt for the best South African songs has never been any easier, but with proper ranking of old and new tracks alike, you will definitely find several that qualify to be your best.
Our list unveils top South African songs of all time upon reviewing thousands of albums, their reception, and reviews. If you are looking for the best songs of all time, then we are about to answer your question.
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Top 100 songs of all time
South Africa is highly enriched with several musical plays ranging from Mzekezeke songs to old Kwaito music and Afrikaans love songs. While it is possible to produce a list of 2000's songs or more, our record of 100 best South African songs is adequate for updating your playlist.
Best 1960's to 1980's popular South African music
South Africa is home to some of the most famous African songs that have qualified for regional competitions and theatres. While it is easy to identify famous South African musicians, it is not necessarily straightforward to identify the most trending songs in the country. It is for sure that top South African songs are mainly those that have crossed borders to accumulate a broad base of fans from other music-centric states.
1. Phalafala (1964)
Elite Swingsters features Dolly Rathebe in this beautiful song translating to fruitful in English.
2. Pata Pata (1967)
Written back in 1957 by Dorothy Masuka, Pata Pata emerged to become a national hit a decade later in 1967.
3. Master Jack (1968)
The track was released by five artists among them a chill and four jacks.
4. Yakhal' Inkomo (1968)
The track is among South African traditional songs recorded on the 23rd July 1968 in Johannesburg. This South Africa song would later gain extended prominence in the region.
5. For Your Precious Love (1968)
The Flames released this heart throbbing rock song in 1968 under the Album Soulfire!, which eventually became a success.
6. The Seagull's Name Was Nelson (1971)
Des and Dawn Lindberg have released several songs, but this one became incredibly famous for its time. The song is an authentic release rallying against pollution, a reference pointing to Nelson Mandela’s incarceration.
7. Nomathemba (1973)
Her jazz genre song was released in 1973 under the Album Naturally. The songs would later grow Letta Mbulu’s fame in the music industry.
8. Mama Tembu's Wedding (1973)
Ipi ‘n Tombi released this song featuring Margaret Singana in 1973 under the album the Warrior Remastered. It is among the most prevalent south African wedding songs.
9. Stimela (1974)
Hugh Masekela recorded this old-time favorite track under the album “I am not afraid” and released it in 1974 when Bra Hugh was still behind bars.
10. Mannenberg (1974)
Abdullah Ibrahim released this sweet South African jazz music in 1974 under the album “Autobiography”.
11. Charlie (1975)
This pop music was released under the album 'Boys Will Be Boys' and spread quickly to its fame.
12. Blues For a Hip King (1975)
The song is among the most successful tracks in Abdullah Ibrahim’s tracklist of all time.
13. Marabi (1976)
That was a song by Malombo that later earned recognition as a variant of the jazz genre.
14. Chocolate Toffee (1976)
Soweto based Saitana band released this hit song during the uprising era under the album Solo.
15. Substitute Clout (1978)
The song is a blend of rock and pop genres released under the album Substitute by the famous artist Clout.
16. Universal Men (1979)
Universal Men is among the most famous songs in South Africa from the 1970s. Jukula released the song under the Album Universal Men.
17. ZX Dan (1979)
The Radio Rats was a rock band formed in 1977. Two years later, the group released ZX Dan which earned second place in Radio 5 ranking.
18. Jo Bangles (1979)
Baxtop released this rock tune under the album Work It Out.
19. Paradise Road (1980)
A list of 1980's South African music is never complete without Paradise Road, a hitmaker song released by a female vocal group Joy.
20. Party (1981)
Changing their names to Harari in 1976, the group released this successful hit in 1981. It remains on play today.
21. Man on the Moon (1981)
Ballyhoo released this big-time track in early 1981 which earned responsive fame among fans.
22. Impi (1981)
1981 was a good year for Johnny Clegg and other featured artists such as Sipho Mchunu and Juluka. Impi emerged the top song on the album The Good Hope Concerts. The song was released in 1986.
23. The Bushman (1982)
With several albums under Steve Kekana’s credit, The Bushman is probably one of his bestselling track of all time.
24. Isiphiwo (1982)
The soul brothers band gained immense popularity following the release of Isiphiwo.
25. Hey Boy (1983)
Via Africa released this big-time pop-rock hit under the album “Via Africa”.
26. Shadows (1983)
The release of Shadows by éVoid took the country by storm even as the song gained more fame across the borders.
27. Weekend Special (1983)
Weekend special by a continental sweetheart Brenda Fassie is undoubtedly one of the best in the industry.
28. Shot Down (1983)
Shot down is one of the best classic songs in the 80s released by The Cherry Faced Lurchers.
29. See Yourself (Clowns) (1984)
Ella Mental is the artist behind this entertaining rock beat released under the album Uncomplicated Dreams.
30. Burnout (1984)
With about a million sales, Burnout is an unseasoned track in the South African entertainment industry. It is all Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse’s work of art.
31. Is it an Ism or is it Art? (1984)
Niki Daly released this artistic song in 1984 and remained one of the best lyrics in subsequent years.
32. Jabulani (1984)
Jabulani is a number one hit single in which Hotline features PJ Powers
33. I'm in Love with a DJ (1985)
Yvonne Chaka Chaka released this international tune now featured by many artists as an old school South African house music. It is one of the famous South African love songs.
34. Stimela sazeZola (1985)
Mbongeni Ngema released this famous song in the mid-80s, and it received commendable reception among fans.
35. Reggae Vibes is Cool (1985)
Bernoldus Niemand mastered the song in 1985 under the album Wie Is Bernoldus Niemand.
More of 1980's South African music
- This Boy (1986): by Sweatband
- National Madness (1986): by The Aeroplanes
- Change is Pain (1986): by Mzwakhe Mbuli
- Homeless (1986): by Ladysmith Black Mambazo
- Johnny Calls the Chemist (1986): by Falling Mirror
- Now or Never (1987): by Sankomota
- Ten Ten Special (1987): by the African Jazz Pioneers
- Scatterlings of Africa (1987): by Johnny Clegg and Savuka
- Weeping (1987): by Bright Blue
- Hillbrow (1988): by Johannes Kerkorrel
- Quick Quick (1989): by Marcalex
The list of 1990s songs
Here are famous African songs 90s by our talented Mzansi musicians.
- Slave (1990): by Lucky Dube
- Shake (1990): by Tananas
- Special Star (1990): by Mango Groove
- Tomorrow Nation (1991): by O'Yaba
- I'm in Love with a Rastaman (1991): by Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens
- Sarafina! (1992): by Hugh Masekela
- It's About Time (1993): by Boom Shaka
- The Crossing (1993): by Johnny Clegg
- Mmalo-We (1994): by Bayete
- Never Again (1994): by Prophets of Da City
- When You Come Back (1994): by Vusi Mahlasela
- Waar Was Jy? (1994): by Skeem
- Sea Level (1995): by Urban Creep
- The Child Inside (1995): by Qkumba Zoo
- Kaffir (1995): by Arthur Mafokate
- African Dream (1996): by Vicky Sampson
- Kiss the Machine (1996): by Battery 9
- Magasman (1997): by Trompies
- Stand in your Way (1997): by Just Jinger
- Fords Nissans Toys en Beetles (1997): by Brasse Vannie Kaap
- Shibobo (1998): by TKZee
- Vul'indlela (1998): by Brenda Fassie
- Yehlisan' Umoya (1998): by Busi Mhlongo
- Sondela (1999): by Ringo Madlingozi
- Thathi Sgubu (1999): by Bongo Maffin
- Blue Eyes (1999): by Springbok Nude Girls
The list of 2000s songs
- Genes & Spirits (2000): by Moses Molelekwa
- Born in a Taxi (2000): by Blk Sonshine
- Nkalakatha (2000): by Mandoza
- Afrikaners is Plesierig (2001): by Karen Zoid
- Meisie Meisie (2001): by Kurt Darren
- Ghetto Fabulous (2002): by Zola & Kaybee
- Ndihamba Nawe (2002): by Mafikizolo
- Ayelekile Amasango (2002): by Ismael
- Picture Perfect (2002): by Perez
- Midnight (2003): by 340ml
- Umoya (2003): by Skwatta Kamp
- Nomvula (After the Rain) (2003): by Freshlyground
- Destiny (2004): by Malaika
- Nizalwa Ngobani (2004): by Thandiswa Mazwai
- Matofotofo (2004): by Pitch Black Afro
- Akekh' uGogo (2005): by Mzekezeke
- Whistling in Tongues (2005): by Felix Laband
- De La Rey (2006): by Bok van Blerk
- Sister Bethina (2006): by Mgarimbe
- Feel Good (2007): by Lira
- Bantu Biko Street (2007): by Simphiwe Dana
- Show Dem (Make the Circle Bigger) (2009): by JR feat Hip-Hop Pantsula
Famous South African songs from 2010 to date
- Cooler as Ekke (2010): by Jack Parow
- Enter the Ninja (2010): by Die Antwoord
- Fairytale (2010): by Liquideep
- Tot Die Son Uitkom (2011): by Van Coke Cartel
- Loliwe (2011): by Zahara
- Hosanna (2013): by The Brother Moves on
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From fresh beats to passionate artists, the thought of South African songs resonates with an urge to shake a little. Apart from Hindi, and Kwaito songs, top Afrikaans songs dominate the South African entertainment industry. For a country where freedom never came easy, music is not an option to take lightly.
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