My South African playlist

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I didn’t anything about South African music before coming to Jo’burg. Well, not exactly true. I knew a bit. But not much. You’ll see that later.

So, yes, I’ve had a whole lot of new music to experience in my new country, and I’ve been listening to South African tunes with great pleasure. At least, most of the time. You’ll see that later as well.

Hence this playlist: for those who want to immerse into local music before coming to the country, here are a few bands and tracks you can listen to in the plane. And oh yes, I’m a pop-rock-folk kind of guy, so don’t expect any hip-hop / dance / house references here, or you’d end up bitterly disappointed.

1. Monark: One of my favorites. They launched their debut album Negatives in 2013 and reached instant fame with pop anthems like Build it up or Something. Their flashy pop songs served by the high-pitched voice of the lead singer reminds me of my high-school days, when I was listening Suede. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, I must say.

2. Matthew Mole: surely the star of the moment. Originally from Cape Town, the 20-something folk singer saw his debut album The home we built reach no. 1 on itunes the morning of its release. A first for a South African artist!

3. Gangs of Ballet: they may come from sunny Durban, but their powerful rocks songs have a dark twist that gives substance to their music. “Don’t let me go” is a grand pop ballad sublimely served by a incandescent videoclip.

4. Jeremy Loops: another Capetonian who made it to the top. His website presents him as a “pedal artist skilled in guitar, harmonica, beatbox, ukulele and banjo”, well, in a word, a multi-instrumentalist. He even uses a toy piano that has travelled with him in all of his shows. His fan base is quite large and active, making his gigs electrifying moments.

5. Beatenberg: surely the most refreshing sound of all, a blend of pop, african and reggae music that makes Beatenberg’s songs distinctly recognizable.. Their sunny, shiny pop will brighten your days, that’s for sure!

So I said I knew a little about South African music? Yes, indeed, as anyone else in France, I came to listen to Johnny Clegg in my younger days. Johnny Clegg used to be huge in my home country back then. It is even said that Michael Jackson had to cancel one of his concerts because of him: everybody was buying tickets to go and see the White Zulu, and none of his. Anyway, I remember buying the Crossing on a flea market, and it has since then always been featured on my ipod, getting even more frequent plays since we decided to move to South Africa.

But the local music can also be quite challenging at times, and I must confess I ‘m still having a hard time getting to appreciate the subtleness of the Afrikaans music. Most of the Afrikaans songs I’ve heard so far are an incongruous mix of dance and country music adorned with germanic lyrics. It’s as if Nina Hagen had decided to revisit Dolly Parton’s repertoire. And believe me, it sounds as bad as it seems. But let’s be fair: I’ve seen parties about to die revived on the sound of Loslappie by Kurt Darren. I thus owe some of my wildest nights to the Afrikaans music. I guess it proves that everything comes with a purpose, right?

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