Contemporary South African Musicians

As the 21st century rolled out, the South African music industry saw a shift in the type of music being produced. The industry was evolving from a traditionally-focused set into a modern, pop and rock focused scene. Musicians flourished by combining traditional elements of South African music with popular international genres. 

©Eric Miller
The band The Soil performing at the Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town.

The industry went head-first into a more explorative direction where artists were free to experiment and create distinctive sounds that have not been heard before. Prior to the 2000’s, SA music was heavily restricted by the apartheid regime who marginalised artists of colour and deprived many exceptional musicians of producing and recording music on a national level.

When apartheid ended in 1994, the focus shifted from struggle music to a more Westernised and modern sound. Bands and musicians started questioning the status quo and moving towards a more alternative and open music industry. The mix of traditional genres and modern concepts created genres like Kwaito and Afrikaans-alternative, which paved the way for a new wave of South African music.

Popular musicians of the early to mid-2000's includes Johnny Clegg, Emo Adams, Alice Phoebe Lou as well as bands like Prime Circle, Just Jinjer, Gangs of Ballet and Soweto String Quartet. As the music industry continues to change and evolve, documents the contemporary musicians and bands of South Africa.

By Carla Lottering

Alice Phoebe Lou

Listening to the majestic, bluesy sounds produced by South African singer, songwriter and guitarist Alice Phoebe Lou is a cathartic experience. Her mix of folksy beats and soprano vocals has captivated audiences...more

Andre de Villiers

Andre De Villiers is a South African singer-songwriter. He began his remarkable music career as the lead singer of the hybrid 60s Jazz/Rock band, Hammak....more

Ard Matthews

South African rocker Ard Matthews has been active in the SA music industry since the 1990’s as frontman of rock band Just Jinjer. Although the band is still active, Matthews launched a successful solo career...more


Indie-pop band Beatenberg is most likely on any South African hipster’s playlist. Their effortlessly cool sound and blend of pop and SA flavour has made them increasingly popular with young adults around the country....more

Brasse Vannie Kaap

During the 1990’s, South African music was shifting towards more progressive, alternative sounds that defied government regulation and commercialisation....more

Cape Philharmonic Orchestra

South Africa’s premier orchestra, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, plays top-class classical music in and around the country, as well as abroad....more

Claire Johnston

Claire is the natural go-to choice for international events like the Springbok rugby union and she was involved in the 1999 All-Africa Games as well as South Africa’s bid for the 2004 Summer Olympics....more

Emo Adams

South African singer, actor and producer Emo Adams took the country’s creative industry by storm in the early 2000’s. His artistic expression through song, theatre and production has made him a household name...more


As memorable as a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning, Freshlyground is one of South Africa’s most successful Afro-fusion bands....more

Gangs of Ballet

The combination of individual musical styles and varied tastes have proven to be a recipe for success for the South African rock/alternative band Gangs of Ballet....more

Guy Buttery

No one chronicles the bittersweet sounds of the guitar quite as exquisitely or explosively as South African guitarist Guy Buttery. He is one of the most influential guitar players the country has produced...more

Hatchet Man

Hatchet Man is a South African band that blend elements of rock and folk music to create a sound wholly their own....more

Jennifer Eaves

A classically-trained musician with a degree in music from the University of Cape Town, Jennifer began performing during her teen years....more

Jennifer Jones

Jones started singing gospel music during the early 1980s, gaining recognition in 1993 when she performed the title track, Body Talk, for the internationally released feature action film, Terminator Woman....more

Jesse Clegg

The brooding, passionate singer, songwriter and guitarist Jesse Clegg is no stranger to the South African music industry. His father is the legendary Johnny Clegg, and the apple did not fall far from the tree....more

Johannes Kerkorrel

A name synonymous with the loud, rebellious Afrikaans youth movement of the 1990’s, Johannes Kerkorrel defined alternative Afrikaans music scene in South Africa....more

Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg is one of South Africa’s most popular musicians of the 21st century. His infectious crossover of traditional Zulu sounds and Western rhythms made him a pioneer in the SA music industry....more

Letta Mbulu

The regality of Letta Mbulu is never lost on anyone in her presence. The legendary jazz singer has never been one to shy away from her dreams, and her warmth and sophistication have ensured her illustrious career’s longevity....more

Lucky Dube

His easy-flowing melodies had a traditional feel, as he made use of traditional African instruments and indigenous beats. In his later years, became a talented lyricist and wrote music with a strong message of empowerment, liberation and the need for acti...more

Mac McKenzie

Mac McKenzie is a musical jack of all trades: a rocker, a jazzman, a goema pioneer and an extraordinary symphony composer. During the 1970s, he produced groundbreaking music that ensured his longevity in the South African music industry....more

Nick Turner

The accomplished Nick Turner is a South African singer and songwriter known primarily as the founding member of the 90s SA band, Son of Trout....more

Paige Mac

The band Paige Mac is the brainchild of lead singer and songwriter, Mac Mahon. Her voice has often been likened to that of, UK songbird, Adele....more

Prime Circle

Ross Learmonth, the frontman of popular South African rock band Prime Circle, is the embodiment of an old-fashioned rocker navigating a new age of music....more

Radio Kalahari Orkes

If you’ve ever wanted to experience unfiltered Afrikaans culture, look no further than Radio Kalahari Orkes (RKO)....more

Soweto String Quartet

The nostalgic strings of the Soweto String Quartet (SSQ for short) are a welcoming sound for many South Africans. The elegant, African soul sound of the band has made them a popular outfit locally and internationally....more

The Soil

In the world of music, acapella is often an overlooked genre that does not attain as much status as, say, pop or rock. However, the hauntingly beautiful sounds of humankind’s first instrument - the voice - is what makes people connect with music....more

Tina Schouw

Nothing soothes the soul quite like the lyrical sounds of South African singer and artist Tina Schouw. The beautiful combination of jazz, folk and Latin makes for a unique sound that’s easy to listen to....more