Bubblegum music was a form of pop music that was popular in South Africa in the 1980s. The sound was a distinctive mix of vocals, electronic keyboards and synthesisers. The music sought to appeal to the younger generation of urbanised South Africans and featured energetic beats that were easy to dance to.
Bubblegum music borrowed from the traditional sounds of mbaqanga, marabi and kwela, so bubblegum was deep set in South African townships and their culture. It was a fun genre of feel-good beats and progressive vocals.
The genre highlighted certain political messages that artists wanted to convey about the state South Africa was in, as heard in singer Chicco Tswala’s ‘We Miss You Manelow’, a song about Nelson Mandela release in the late 1980’s.
Artists like Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Brenda Fassie further popularised the genre, releasing hit songs that performed well on the South African charts. Fassie’s song ‘Weekend Special’ is a prime example of bubblegum music, and is still an extremely popular song.
As music progressed into the 1990’s, bubblegum music lost traction, but has been a major influence in the music culture of South Africa, representing a time period in the country where urbanised people of colour sought to find their ‘sound’ and speak out on the injustices they faced.