15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous South African Musicians

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From jazz to pop and everything in between, South African musicians have a lot to offer music fans all over the globe. These artists have entertained audiences around the world and left an indelible mark on the history of music. 

In this blog post, we will take a look at 15 of the most famous South African musicians and their accomplishments. 

Whether you are already a fan of South African music or just getting started, you’re sure to find something new and interesting here!

1. Hugh Masekela

Born in 1939 in Emalahleni, Hugh Masekela was a world-renowned jazz trumpeter and composer who has been playing music for over 60 years.

He is best known for his 1966 hit “Grazing in the Grass,” which went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Masekela has also worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Paul Simon, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis.

Masekela’s talent and passion for music have earned him numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy Award, an honorary doctorate from the University of York, and induction into the South African Music Hall of Fame.

He died in 2008, but his music will continue to inspire people all over the world for years to come.

2. Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim is a world-renowned jazz pianist and composer born in 1934 in Cape Town, South Africa.

He began playing the piano at a young age and was composing music by the time he was in his early 20s.

Ibrahim has collaborated with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

His music is heavily influenced by traditional South African music and rhythms, which gives it a unique and unmistakable sound.

He has been awarded several prestigious awards, including a Grammy Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand.

In addition to his work as a musician, Ibrahim is also a highly respected visual artist. His artwork has been exhibited all over the world, and he was even nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 1994.

Ibrahim is a true pioneer of jazz music and a master of his craft. He continues to tour and perform around the world, delighting audiences with his unique sound.

3. Miriam Makeba

Born in Johannesburg in 1932, Miriam Makeba was a world-famous singer and civil rights, activist. Her music combined traditional South African music with jazz, gospel, and soul influences.

She is best known for her hit song “Pata Pata,” which was released in 1957 and became an international success.

She won numerous awards throughout her career, including a Grammy Award, an honorary doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the Nelson Mandela Peace Prize.

Makeba was also a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa and spent many years living in exile. She died of a heart attack during a 2008 concert in Italy.

4. Johnny Clegg

Next on the list is Johnny Clegg who is a world-famous singer, songwriter, and dancer who was born in 1953 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He began his music career in the 1970s as a member of the apartheid-era band Juluka. In 1986, Clegg formed his own band, Savuka, which achieved international success with its blend of Zulu folk music and pop-rock.

Clegg has been awarded several honors throughout his career, including a SAMA Lifetime Achievement Award, an Order of the British Empire, and induction into the South African Music Hall of Fame.

He is also one of the few white artists to be considered “African” by many of his fans and peers.

Clegg died in 2019 at the age of 66. He is remembered as one of South Africa’s most beloved musicians and a champion of racial reconciliation.

5. Vusi Mahlasela

Vusi Mahlasela is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist born in 1965 in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

He began his music career in the 1980s as a member of The Starlight Mints’ anti-apartheid band. But his solo career took off in the early 2000s with the release of his debut album, The Voice.

Mahlasela is known for his unique style of singing, which has been described as “a mix of township jive, gospel, and folk music.”

He has won numerous awards throughout his career, including a SAMA Lifetime Achievement Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of South Africa.

He’s is one of South Africa’s most beloved musicians and continues to tour and perform around the world, sharing his music and stories with audiences young and old.

6. Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who you probably know already but did you know he was actually born Johannesburg, South Africa.

He moved to the United States in 1986 and formed the Dave Matthews Band soon after. The band achieved massive success with its blend of folk, rock, jazz, and world music.

Matthews is a highly accomplished musician and has won numerous awards throughout his career, including a Grammy Award and an Emmy Award. He has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

7. Glynis Johns

Glynis Johns is a singer and actress who was born in 1922 in Pretoria, South Africa. She began her career on stage in the 1940s and soon became one of the most popular actresses in Britain.

She starred in numerous films throughout her career, including The Three Musketeers (1948), The Court Jester (1956), and The Nun’s Story (1959).

As well as acting though she’s also a successful singer and has released several albums throughout her career.

She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1991 and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1997.

She has had a successful career in both film and music and continues to be one of the most beloved actresses in Britain.

8. Lucky Dube

Lucky Dube was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist born in 1964 in South Africa. He began his music career in the 1980s as a member of The Gladiators’ reggae band.

He soon established himself as one of the most popular reggae singers in South Africa and released several successful albums.

Dube was known for his powerful voice and socially conscious lyrics, which often addressed the problems of poverty and racism.

He was tragically killed in 2007 during a robbery, but his music continues to inspire and uplift people all over the world.

9. Shaun Welgemoed

Shaun Welgemoed is a singer and songwriter who was born in 1978 in Cape Town, South Africa. He began his music career in the early 2000s and soon became one of the most popular artists in South Africa.

Welgemoed is known for his soulful voice and emotive lyrics, which often explore themes of love and loss.

He has released several successful albums throughout his career and has won numerous awards, including a SAMA for Best Male Artist.

10. John Theodore Kongos

John Kongos is a singer, songwriter, and producer who was born in 1945 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is best known for his 1971 hit single, “He’s Gonna Step on You Again.”

Kongos has released several successful albums throughout his career and was inducted into the South African Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

Kongos is a true pioneer of South African music. He has had a long and successful career and continues to be an inspiration to musicians worldwide.

11. Sipho Mabuse

Sipho Mabuse is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was born in 1952 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He is best known for his work with the band Stimela, which he co-founded in 1977.

Mabuse has released several successful albums throughout his career and has won numerous awards, including a SAMA for Best Male Artist.

Mabuse is one of the most respected singers in South Africa. He has had a long and successful career and continues to be an inspiration to musicians all over the world.

12. David Kramer

David Kramer is a singer, songwriter, and actor who was born in 1951 in Worcester, South Africa. He is best known for his work with the band Os Kiebos, which he co-founded in 1971.

Kramer has released several successful albums throughout his career and has won numerous awards, including a SAMA for Best Male Artist.

Kramer is a true legend of South African music. He has had a long and successful career and continues to be an inspiration to musicians all over the world.

13. Steve De Groote

Steve De Groote was a singer and songwriter who was born in 1953 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He is best known for his work with the band Freedom’s Children, which he co-founded in 1967.

De Groote has released several successful albums throughout his career and has won numerous awards, including a SAMA for Best Male Artist.

He has had a long and successful career and continues to be an inspiration to musicians all over the world.

14. Robbie Jansen

Robbie Jansen is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist born in 1949 in Cape Town, South Africa. He is best known for his work with the band Pacific Express, which he co-founded in 1976.

Jansen has released several successful albums throughout his career and has won numerous awards, including a SAMA for Best Male Artist.

He collapsed while on tour in 2006 Grahamstown in 2010 and died shortly thereafter, but his music continues to inspire and uplift people all over the world.

15. Lehlogonolo Ronald Mataboge

Lehlogonolo Ronald Mataboge is a singer, songwriter, and producer born in 1997 in Pretoria, South Africa.

He is best known for his work with the group Skwatta Kamp, which he co-founded in 2002.

Mataboge has released several successful albums throughout his career and has won numerous awards, including a SAMA for Best Male Artist.

Mataboge is one of the most talented young singers in South Africa. He has had a long and successful career and continues to be an inspiration to musicians all over the world.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Musicians From South Africa

These are just a few of the many great musicians who come from South Africa.

These artists have had a profound impact on the music scene in South Africa and continue to inspire new generations of musicians.

If you’re a fan of South African music, be sure to check out these artists and others like them. You won’t be disappointed!

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then, he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.