Top 10 Best South African Songs of All Time

Upon emergence from the apartheid regime, the independent South Africa took a new turn enjoying one of the best economies in the world. No sector though grew much interest to many as the music industry. At only 22, the industry had already delivered justice to the genre making South Africa Music Awards one of the most anticipated in the continent.

Top 10 Best South African Songs of All Time

Opposed to song performance as the only means of gauging songs credibility some of the all time songs that are still alive today dealt with strong social concerns such as morality, religion, poverty and the general state of the nation. Despite being a number of successful musicians, below have for as much as could be remembered formed the best 10 South African songs of all the time.

List of Top 10 Best South African Songs of All Time until in 2017

10. Mannenberg (1975)

Mannerbag was an outcry to the apartheid rule that specifically addressed the tribulations of the coloured communities who were forcefully evicted from District Six. In this wonderful jazz song, Abdullah Ibrahim carefully placed all the words in order creating a masterpiece that within no time acquired global attention. In the United States for instance a version of the same was created by the name Cape Town Fringe. It was hailed by the Lindsay Johns of Spectator as one of the best composed songs of their time and it featured in a number of albums including Darius Bluebeck’s “African Tributes”

9. Charlie (1975)

Charlie was just what South Africans needed in the seventies. Despite contradictions on the meanings of the lyrics, Charlie became one of the best selling songs of the seventies and was subsequently placed in the first place by both Springbok Radio Charts and South African Charts. As one of the best, Charlie will always be remembered as one of the few songs with the best orchestra arrangements, excellent piano and many choruses full of longing voices.

8. Mama Tembu’s Wedding (1973)

Immediately after “Warriors” Margaret Singana makes another hit: this time with the services of famed singer Miriam Makeba. In Mama Tembu’s wedding, Makeba’s Xhosa clique creates such a rhythm that turns the song into jubilation in South Africa. Loved by many, the song secured a sixth place on Springbok Top 20 while remaining on the chart for another 17 weeks. 33 years down the line the song is still loved by many South Africans and it is particularly of interest to children who love dancing to his tunes.

7. Stimela (1974)

Recapturing his earlier days, Hugh Masekela wrote this song to specifically address the plight of the exploited mine workers in Johannesburg using train as a symbol. The classic was timely as it was written under the heights of the transition between cultural and music boundaries. Performed in 1974 for the first time, the song later joined the list of Masekela best songs that are well represented across the continent and the globe.

6. Seagull’s Name Was Nelson (1971)

There are no clear records about the song but it was one of the most popular songs in South Africa in the seventies. The metaphoric song refers to the then apartheid kingpin Nelson Mandela. In the song, Des and Dawn Linderbag use the picture of an oil-drenched seagull to represent the struggles of South Africans during the apartheid rule. Though the group was later burned, Seagull’s Name Was Nelson has always remained in the list of South Africans favorites.

5. For Your Precious Love (1968)

For Your Precious Love was a leading soul music from the best soul music group Soulfire. Initially it was composed of four successful artistes who played the roles of guitarist, drummer, soloist and bassist. It is Blondie Chaplin arrival in the group that ignites the fire even harder. With him, “For Your Precious Love” clinched the top position in local charts while at the same time attaining a global recognition. This is one amongst the Top 10 Best South African Songs of All Time until 2017.

4. Yakhal’s Inkomo (1968)

Yakhal’s Inkomo was a creative jazz song that comprised two famous artists Dave Challen and Abdullah Ibrahim. It was formerly recorded in Johannesburg Studios alongside other successful artistes such as: Lionel Pillay, Agrippa Magwaza and Early Mabuza. After the release, the song turn into one of bestsellers and won a Castle Lager Award with Dave Challen winning the “Jazz Musician of the Year” award.

3. Master Jack (1968)

The hit which follows “Timothy” by Four Jacks and a Jill became joined the privileged few South African Songs to secure a position in America’s Billboard Hot 100. It was placed in the 5th place on Cashbox while at the same time attaining a 3rd place on Adult Contemporary Chart. Outside the country, it was ranked as the best song in Malaysia, Canada, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

2. Pata pata (1967)

Though it was written by Dorothy Masuka, it was Miriam Makeba’s extreme talent that brought life to the lyrics. Albeit the number of versions, the famed “Pata Pata” remains Miriam Makeba’s 1972 song from the album “The Best of the Early Years”. Ten years after the release, the song was performed in the United States placing the artist in the 12th place in Billboard Hot 100. Back home, the song fared well in the country charts and has always been praised as Makeba’s greatest hit.

1. Phalafala (1964)

Dolly Rathebe has over the years become the envy of many not only in South Africa but also around the world. She was a successful singer, actress, vocalist and above all one of the greatest dancers of all the times. However, despite all this attributes Rathebe entry into international fame came when she signed a contract with Elite Swingstars. Phalafala was released around this time seeing the collaboration proving nothing but success. The song got an international acclamation and it remained one of the best songs in home charts. Though she failed to get the post of a Shebeen Queen in Cape Town, it is no doubt that Phalafala will always remain one of the greatest hits in South Africa.

These above are the Top 10 Best South African Songs of All Time until 2017. The strides that the South African Music Industry has made towards becoming the best in the continent would not have been possible without bringing into consideration some of the most celebrated songs. Though most of the contents from the original music has faded in the minds of many, above however has always remained as the best reference to South Africa’s classics.

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