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South African Music

Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), also known as Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, and civil rights activist.

Miriam Makeba brought African music to Western audiences. Thanks to her, world music and Afropop was popularized. 

She became a symbol of opposition to the apartheid (racist) system in South Africa, making popular several songs critical of the apartheid regime.

Miriam Makeba lived in exile after her right to return to South Africa was revoked. 

Asimbonanga – Johnny Clegg

Asimbonanga means “We can’t see him” or “We have not seen him”.

Asimbonanga is an anti-apartheid song that was written while Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa. It became very popular within the anti-apartheid movement.

Jonathan Clegg (7 June 1953 – 16 July 2019) was a South African anti-apartheid activist, musician, and singer-songwriter. Much of his music focused on the music of indigenous South African people.

Johnny Clegg’s band, Juluka, was the first group in the South African apartheid-era with a white man and a black man. 

Sunset – Jonathan Butler

Jonathan Butler was born and raised in Athlone, Cape Town, (which is part of the Cape Flats).

He is a child of Apartheid—racial segregation and poverty are the subjects of many of his records.

Cape Town locals are extremely proud of him. His first single was the first by a black artist, played by white radio stations (during apartheid South Africa). It earned him a Sarie Award, (South Africa’s equivalent to the Grammy Awards.)

Paradise Road

This is a powerful song that deserves an encore. It is a painful reminder of South Africa’s history. On the left is the original of Paradise Road by the band Joy. On the right is the cover version by Ladysmith Black Mabazo.

The World in Union – Ladysmith Black Mabazo and PJ Powers

This song was written for the 1994 Rugby World Cup. It is a beautiful and oh-so-powerful song that helped to unite South Africa after its first democratic elections.