South Africa is a melting pot, a country with 11 different official languages and a musical legacy littered with distinctive subgenres like kwaito, gqom, kwela, and bubblegum. New artists are paying homage to these musical blueprints but tweaking them slightly – the wavy, glitchy synths of kwaito might be underpinned by menacing trap drums, whereas DJs are digging deep into vinyl archives to resurrect samples of South African bubblegum pop and splicing them into new, more modern production. Rules are being bent and the results are starting to garner the attention of international audiences.
The heavy presence of South African artists on last year’s Black Panther soundtrack only solidified the country’s reputation as a hub of creativity, and labels like ATM (African Trap Movement) are slowly but surely building rosters packed with potential stars. The likes of Black Coffee, FAKA and Die Antwoord have already built global fanbases for various reasons, but now the spotlight is being shone on newer artists or musicians whose work has been largely underrated by audiences worldwide throughout their career.
It’s impossible to collate a definitive list of artists to add to your Spotify lists, but from trap stars and kwaito queens to iconic rappers and viral hit-makers, here are ten wildly different South African artists to brighten your musical palette.