From traditional African rhythms to modern hip-hop and everything in between, internationally famous South African musicians have offered a lot to music lovers. If you prefer any form of music, be it R&B, reggae, hip hop or traditional music, you must have heard some great South African names. The artists have left an indelible mark in the music industry by releasing quality, catchy and entertaining tunes.
So, whether you are already a fan of South African music or just getting started, read on to find out who are the top 10 internationally famous South African musicians. The musicians on this list have all played a significant role in shaping the music we here nowadays from South Africa.
Table of Contents
1. Lucky Dube
Lucky Dube is one of the names which must pop up when the discussion is about internationally famous South African musicians. When it comes to reggae in Africa, Lucky Dube is, without a doubt, a pioneer. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time, with his music sending messages to the young and elderly alike. The well-known Lucky Dube may be gone, but reggae, as the saying goes, is irrepressible.
2. Miriam Makeba
Nicknamed Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba is another music legend from South Africa the world will never forget. Associated with musical genres such as Afropop, jazz, and world music, Mama Africa achieved international success in the 1960s. Some of the themes in her songs include equality, peace, justice and humanism.
3. Yvonne Chaka Chaka
Who hasn’t heard Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s voice? Also known as the Princes of Africa, Yvonne Chaka Chaka has been at the forefront of South African popular music for 35 years. She is one of the internationally famous South African musicians known for powerful vocals and uplifting lyrics.
Yvonne has released multiple albums and won numerous awards, including a BET Lifetime Achievement award. Like many other musicians on our list Yvonne has been involved in various philanthropic efforts.
4. Hugh Masekela
Described as “the father of South African jazz”, Hugh Masekela was a jazz trumpeter, cornetist, flugelhornist, composer and singer. He gained worldwide recognition in the 1960s, thanks to his amazing hits such as “Bring Him Back Home” and “Grazing in the Grass”. His music remains a testament to his lifelong commitment to equality and social justice.
5. Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim is a jazz pianist and composer whose music reflects many of the musical influences of his childhood in the port areas of Cape Town. He has collaborated with some of the biggest names in jazz, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. The 88-year-old has been awarded several prestigious awards over the years.
6. Johnny Clegg
Johnny Clegg was a world-famous singer, songwriter and dancer from South Africa. He began his music career in the 1970s as a member of the apartheid-era band Juluka. He would later form his band, Savuka, which achieved international success hence gaining recognition worldwide. Clegg has been awarded several honours throughout his career, including an induction into the South African Music Hall of Fame.
7. Black Coffee
Born Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo, Black Coffee is a musician, record producer and DJ from South Africa. With a career spanning over two decades, Black Coffee has become one of the most prominent figures in the music industry. The 47-year-old is known for his unique blend of African rhythms, electronic sounds soulful beats, which connect people across continents.
8. Vusi Mahlasela
Next on our list of internationally famous South African musicians is Vusi Mahlasela. The 58-year-old is often dubbed as “The Voice” of South Africa as his work was an inspiration to many in the anti-apartheid movement. He is known for his unique style of singing and has won numerous awards throughout his career. Vusi continues to tour and perform around the world.
9. John Kongos
John Theodore Kongos is a singer, producer and songwriter who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is best known for his 1971 Top 10 hit single “He’s Gonna Step on You Again” and “Tokoloshe Man”, which was featured on the TV show Life on Mars. Kongos is a true pioneer of South African music and was inducted into the South African Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
10. Brenda Fassie
Also known as the “Queen of African Pop”, Brenda Fassie was South African singer, songwriter, dancer and activist. She rose to fame in the 1980s and continued to make music until her demise in 2004. Her music was a fusion of disco, pop and traditional African rhythms. Some of Brenda’s fans affectionately called her MaBrrr.
Who is the Most Successful Musician in South Africa?
- Master KG
- Nasty C
- DJ Maphorisa
- DJ Black Coffee
Who are the Most Famous Singers in South Africa?
- Lucky Dube
- Miriam Makeba
- Yvonne Chaka Chaka
- Hugh Masekela
- Abdullah Ibrahim
Who is the Biggest Artist in South Africa Right Now?
- Master KG
- Nasty C
- Kabza De Small
- DJ Maphorisa
- Prince Kaybee
Who is the Biggest International Musician?
Abel Tesfaye, popularly known as The Weekend, is statistically the most popular musician on the planet.