Iconic South African Music Videos

Legendary local hits that you aren’t too young to remember

Words: Palesa Kgasane | Collage: Abbey Lardner Burke

*This list is not in any way exhaustive, so big props to the many artists who contributed to our childhood nostalgia; spending the money your grandmother gave you for electricity  on ice-guavas instead (a fruity ice lolly which was actually mango flavoured), driving through the township with your older cousin (who isn’t a legal driver) and attending high-school dances which were equally enjoyable and oppressive largely because they played Steve Hofmeyer songs on rotation.

These unforgettable songs were soundtracks to the Summers that I’ll never forget and I salute the artists and many others for paving the way - shout out to the likes of Bra Hugh, Arthur Mafokate and Mafikizolo too!

Music is all about sharing and evoking some kind of feeling.

What other songs do you think should be on this list?

1. Boom Shaka – It’s About Time

So technically speaking, this video was so impactful that it got banned by the former pres. I’m referring to Madeebz. When the saucy dance visuals for this 90s chart topper hit our screens (mainly SABC1, in case you thought MTV Base and Channel O existed back then), mothers and grandmothers were running to the BCCSA to lodge complaints about how the video was polluting young minds and encouraging risque behaviour.

I personally think the video was stylish and edgy, the group really made waves in connecting with their young audiences and making music that was relatable.

Boom Shaka was the only pop/kwaito group back then to break the boundaries in terms of their style and lyrical content (which sometimes wasn’t so clear, e.g. 'You sneeze the disease to the bees my knees').

So what did we learn?

Wearing latex and pleather is A-Okay, but not when you are about to do a handstand and “twerk” for a crowd of thousands of youths. Apparently that’s not on. However, nothing will take away from the legacy that they left, a mix of vocals and rap that brought to life some of the club-bangers that Selimathunzi would feature in their memorable wedding inserts and year-end episodes. Quite a time to be alive!

2.Die Antwoord – Enter The Ninja

Now I’m not entirely sure what’s more awkward when it comes to this old gem: The strong faux thug-life aesthetic represented by middle-class white South Africa being a thing that people actually aspired to, or the fact that this song and video made waves internationally. So much so, that even Lady Gaga and Katy Perry were quoted as being major fans. I’m not hating or anything, this duo capitalized on zeff-ness and kiff-ness, but when we talk about visual narratives, this video (and others) had me all the way confused - a little traumatised too.

Let’s cut straight to school girl Yolande dancing to a shrine of her love interest Ninja and then becoming possessed by his ninja protection (pronounced 'pro-TUK-shin').

The thing I took away from this is that if you are a butterfly in human form, do not waste your time worshipping men with “pretty wise” tattoos strewn across their chests and gold teeth because chances are, you will want to adopt a kid and live happily ever after. Just stay in school, kids.

3. Brenda Fassie – Weekend Special

Brenda Fassie was never a stranger to telling it like it is! Her music was a celebration of blackness and youth and oftentimes an act of rebellion.

One of the most iconic musicians whose songs still have resonance today – think Too Late for Mama, Vul’indlela and the legendary Weekend Special.

The video itself is a playful 80s disco-themed performance featuring the wonder herself, donning a striped maxi dress and ultra cool braids bopping to the hopeful beat of a beautiful song that is essentially about being someone’s second option.

Aside from the hectic Summer outfit goals, we can all gather that this infectious song has been a favourite in many households for years and when that synth-pop intro plays, you know you are hitting the dance floor.

But what can we take away from this? “You don’t come around to see me in the week, you don’t have a chance to call me on the phone” is a clear sign to stay away, bbz. This song is great as long as it doesn’t apply to your real life.

Go get your braids done and shimmy into the arms of someone who won’t just have you be their Weekend Special.

4. Kurt Darren - Kaptein

Whether you are fluent in Afrikaans or barely understand a word of this song (or know who Kurt Darren is), you can’t deny that you at some point in the last 8 years hummed it – probably to your annoyance. Also, contrary to some of our beliefs, Kurt Darren isn’t captain of a provincial rugby team. The music video kind of makes that clear.

Picture an island created on Adobe software featuring plastic palm trees and a whole lot of off-beat dancing. Kurt plays the hero in the video in a 70s blouse (very on-trend right now) vying for the attention of his love interest, but is faced with the issue that all the womxn on the island look like her. How stressful? There are no other men on this beach strange enough, Kurt basically has free reign to live his best life. Although none of it is apparent as he awkwardly dances behind womxn who look like they don’t know why they are in this video.

Not to be confused with Nicholas Louw, Kurt is known as the Justin Bieber of Afrikaans music (I didn’t make this up) so he has the benefit of lots of judging stints on SA Idols and records that actually sell on the market.

What did we learn? Honestly. Don’t heighten your expectations when it comes to finding a bae on an island because things like that only happen in Afrikaans music videos. Instead, minimise your chances of disappointment by dating on the internet.

5. Bongo Maffin – Thatha isiSgubu

*No luck on YouTube with this one

Comprising of Thandiswa Mazwai, AppleSeed, Stoane and Speedy (minus the towel and criminal record); this is one of the freshest music acts to come out of South Africa – ever!

Perhaps I’m a little biased but there is something about conscious lyrical content, great vocals and a little reggae that makes me want to lahla umhlenze.

Winning several awards, the then-young Cape Town kwaito/afrobeat band did some experimental stuff with their sound and image. This music video in particular took you on a trip through the city in a mini bus taxi with Stoane while a young Thandiswa serenaded us with her bluesy voice.

I’m not even going to pretend I understand the deeper meaning behind this song because I’m sure there’s one but what I will say is that this is the kind of music that Mzansi could do with having more of. Listening to their other hits “Kure Uone” and “Mari Yephepha” reminds me of artists like Nonku Phiri and Toshi.

The lesson is to stick to your roots and never throw in the towel(lol), because it may ruin your career.

5. TKZee – Shibobo featuring Benni McCarthy

TKzee brought us some of the best childhood hits, who could forget tunes like “Summa Summa” and the infamous video featuring a very young Bafana Bafana playing Benni McCarthy- before the penthouse in London and blonde hair and when the national team actually used to win. This song was a sample of “The Final Countdown” by Swedish band, Europe (I only know the name because I used Google) remixed with a strong kwaito base, add in some violin and a catchy chorus, die poppe het gedaans! TKZee comprises of Tokello, Kabelo and Zwai - hint at the name. These boys were swag but cool in a way that made their songs popular with the young and old.

This song is special because it featured soccer star Benni McCarthy rapping and also starring in the music video - people went wild when this tune came on because back in the day Benni was quite a cutie and Zwai Bala, with his little dreadlocks, wooed us with his smooth voice, a contrast from fellow group members who were rappers.

I learned about “Togetherness” (it’s a song of theirs), keeping it real and more importantly, reminding us that there was once a time when Bafana Bafana used to win and perhaps if that cycle continued, we’d have more breakout soccer stars turned musicians.

6. Mandoza – Nkalakatha

*No luck on Youtube with this one

This is one jam that needs no layered explanation (even if you are the white dude wearing a spottie in the club appropriating pantsula culture while displaying your surprisingly good dance rendition of the “ngwazi”).

The electro guitar intro preceding Mandoza’s raspy voice is a sound that fills up the speakers and creates the ultimate vibe for a good time. Mandeezy gave us a hit to remember with is one. Every staff party there ever was owes its success to playing this song when the crowd is tired of hearing sokkie treffers.

Mandoza may have never taken his sunglasses off during interviews and pictures but that’s a small price to pay for creating a song in vernacular that all South Africans will sing and dance along to, one of the very few successful artists to do so in this very divided nation of ours.

Nkalakatha was basically Mandoza’s way of saying “hey, listen buddy, I’m the top dog and you shouldn’t mess with me”. And rightly so, this is a lesson we can all take from the book of life - stay in your lane.

Mandoza will be remembered for his contribution to elevating the standard of local music to be inclusive and record breaking. Remember the time him and Danny K made an entire album together? No one saw that one coming.

Eternally grateful for songs like “Tornado” and Nkalakatha, which will be my wedding reception songs for sure.

7. Trompies – Madibuseng

Sometimes you-greeny, sometimes you-yellow, sometimes you-orange!

Insert spotty, bright coloured overalls and a pair of dickies here. The Trompies were the original amaPantsula of the local music scene. The iconic quartet were responsible for giving us hits like “Magasman”, “Fohloza” and “Sweety Lavo”. If you listened to anything remotely cool back in the 90s - these dudes were on your playlist. Specializing in Kwaito, the group stood out because they rapped in vernacular, mixing seSotho, isiZulu and isiXhosa. Surprisingly, mama and grandma didn’t have to ban us from listening to their music because they also secretly enjoyed their catchy beats and often humorous take on township life.

Fashion killers in their own right, the group do a Destiny’s Child-esque matching of outfits with their colour co-ordinated threads. Madibuseng is a particular favourite because of the bright 70s-inspired music video. About a womxn, pop star Lebo Mathosa of Boom Shaka, who can’t seem to make up her mind. The video takes place in a house with a groovy red couch and the group dance around in uber stylish printed satin shirts and chinos. Their music was pivotal in exposing that era of Kwaito music to the mainstream space and pushing an authentically South African brand of representation.

What lesson do we take away from them? Traffic lights are only for directing traffic and shouldn’t be used as a reference point for mood changes. Alas, Lebo Mathosa could do what she wants because she’s a badass so my advice is then not to play it by the book – be moody and shake your booty.