So, Kwaito is going Housey in order to remain relevant (See Whatever Happened to Kwaito?). But what about House music itself? Well, in the last five years it has pretty much shoved all other genres and styles out of the way to become the dominant sound of South Africa. It is so popular that the the country now has the world's biggest House music market per capita, and this October a Johannesburg-based music company (Bass Breaks & Beats) will organise the first award ceremony dedicated to House music, the South African House Music Awards.
House music took root in Pretoria, South Africa in the early 1990s, then spread to Johannesburg where it was slowed down and combined with local elements to form Kwaito. But if Kwaito was the music that defined the generation that came of age after apartheid, the beats have been ramped back up and South African House music is now more in tune with today's increasingly "globalised" South Africans.
Sometimes called Afro House, sometimes Dance music, South African House is distinctly South African. Meaning what? Ok, we're going to put some noses out of joint by saying this but a lot of "international" House lacks a sense of place, and can sometimes sound like nothing but beats (Techno House is often guilty of this). Fine if you're some off-his-head teenager willing to dance to anything with a fast beat, but even then it probably gets a little samey. South African DJs took what they learnt from Kwaito and applied it to House, which means taking your basic 125BPM and adding elements that ground it in the lived reality of South Africans. Thus you will sometimes hear lyrics in one of the local languages (of which there are 11 if you exclude English and Afrikaans), samples from real traditional instruments (drums, in particular, something integral to African music), and heavier basslines than you might find in House music from elsewhere. A track might use a harmony or melody from an old South African song, and the lyrics, minimal though they might be, will be about something people recognise, something political, humorous, traditional, celebratory, etc. It's party music, but it still ties in with South African identity and history, and has meaning beyond music.
This flexible hybrid is what you'll hear in South Africa's clubs, or if you turn on the radio, take a ride in a taxi (it was through taxis that the early house music compilations were distributed), visit a shebeen or a shisa nyama, basically wherever there's music playing. And with the world's dance music lovers' growing hunger for the "foreign but familiar" you're almost as likely to hear the same sound whether you're clubbing in London or Miami. Which is why the biggest names - Oskido, Black Coffee, DJ Fresh, DJ Cleo, etc. - have been racking up airmiles on the international DJ circuit for the past five years.
As we did with the Kwaito piece, here are 12 of the best from the last few months, followed by some album recommendations. First, though, we tip our hat to DJ Mujava, the man behind the 2006 hit Township Funk. DJ Mujava wasn't the pioneer of South African House - that honour belongs to DJ Oskido and DJ Fresh - but this was the track that first tuned the world into South African House.
Township Funk - DJ Mujava
And now, some recent gems
Lento - Professor, ft Speedy (We gave you a heads-up on this a short while ago, but gotta repost now it's got a new vid)
Banane Mavoko - Oskido presents Black Motion, feat. Jah Rich (Banane Maboko means "clap your hands" in Shangaan)
Bashanyana - Mono T, ft. Navy & Masheleng
Wonder - C.9ine, ft Joao Orecchia (Deep House)
We are ghubuluzing - Dj Sbu, ft. Oskido
Falling - DJ Kent, ft. Maleh
Do You Know (Crazy) - Bojo Mujo, DJ Ma-Eli, DJ Tea-kay & Mashavula
Time - DJ Qness, feat. Malehloka
Bad for Me - Phumeza, ft Big Nuz
I hope You Don't Mind - DJ Sox
Summer Breeze - DJ Tira (No proper video for this yet, unfortunately)
Jimaphi/Jezebel - Professor, Feat. Oskido (Had to include one more from Professor 'cos the album's so damned good)
University of Kalawa Jazmee - Professor
10th Commandment - Oskido (DJs should get the limited edition album with unmixed full tracks)
Home Brewed - Black Coffee
Fish Tank - DJ Fisherman
Fabrics of the Heat - Liquideep
Eskhaleni 7 - DJ Cleo
Sound Garden - C.9ine (Deep House)
I Can't Survive - DJ Kent
Irresistible - L'Vovo Derrango
Various singles by Black Motion
Ayobaness! The Sound of South African House
Hope you enjoy these as much as we do.