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The 30 South African bands you NEED to hear!

(Update: It’s been brought to my attention that some people aren’t sure how to stream the songs while reading. Um. Click the little “play” icon next to the song name. Easy, huh?)
(Second Update: Song links for below entry have now expired)

I used to be in a band in South Africa. More about that later. While I was in the band, people around would constantly complain about how hard it was to “make” it in the South African music industry, and that, even if you managed to, the ceiling was too low to stand tall.
It sucked.

South African music has come a long way since then, however. Every week, I hear about someone that I knew, or someone completely new, blasting everyone away. The wealth of musical talent in South Africa is point-blank unbelievable. Bearing in mind the melting-pot that is South African culture (a country with more cultures than you can shake a yard-stick at), South African music has been born out of a mingling of local differences and outside influences; giving it all a special essence that carries with it the unmistakeable flavour of the country.

The problem with South African music, however, is that it all too often begins and ends it’s life in SA, without travelling the world and tipping it’s hat to strange faces.
It’s because of this fact that this post was inspired. I’m based in Brisbane at the moment, but South African music is still in my heart. And it should be broadcast worldwide. So I started compiling a list of SA music that you should be hearing.
Some of these bands are now defunct, some still active, some just taking their first steps and starting out. It would be great if you could help them on their journey.

One last thing; in no way am I claiming this to be a definitive list of SA music. As with any mix-tape compilation, subjectivity is king and rules with an iron fist. There are of course a huge selection of artists who have carved their place in South African Music history, who do not feature below; Hugh Masakela, Brenda Fassie, Johnny Clegg and Juluka, Arapaho, Amersham, Bright Blue, Salty Dog; even some of the newer acts, causing much excitement, such as Fokofpolisiekar, are not mentioned below. This doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to feature; they simply don’t. Deal with it.

So, without further ado, I present to you…


(or, “1.9 hours of Saffa tunes ekse, wukkine!”)

1. Big Idea

Big Idea

(Status: Active)
Big Idea are a band that exemplifies the mix of cultures bubbling in KwaZulu Natal; since forming in 2004, they have become the quintessential hip-hop/jazz fusion group, and a leader of the live music scene. Fronted by charismatic vocalist Quincy “Ou Q” Fynn, the band is Paki Peleoele on drums, Rory “The Jacob” Jacobs on Sampler, vocalist/emcee King Babar, emcee Jet and Dj. LV on decks.
Oh. And I went to school with Rory. Hi Rory!

Big Idea are honestly a band that fills me with excitement. It’s kind of like the first time I heard Max Normal, and I knew that SA was going places. Big Idea fill me with that same, if not more, optimism for the future.
Their technique and creativity know no bounds.
Listen to the listed song below, “Aweh”, and tell me these guys aren’t destined for greatness with a straight face. Go on, I dare ya.

Listen: Big Idea – Aweh

Label Site:

2. Guy Buttery

Guy Buttery

(Status: Active)
A product of coastal KwaZulu Natal, Guy Buttery is a freak of nature. An early adopter of the mandolin and sitar, the quest for new musical boundaries was inevitable for Guy. Through friend, guitar teacher and present jam buddy, Nibs van der Spuy, Guy was introduced to fingerstylist extraordinaire, Michael Hedges. This only poured more fuel on the fire.
A lot of Guy’s pieces use unorthodox guitar techniques; sometimes you can see him using his left hand for the rhythm section, while his right hand comes over the neck of the guitar to supply the bass or melody lines. Couple this with extensive harmonics, percussive drumming on the body of the guitar, and wild tunings, and you have an inkling of the force that is Guy Buttery.

On a side note, one of my dreams would be to see Guy play with Ohad Rein of Old Man River. The creative explosion would be something to see…

And, as an added bonus, here’s a recent video of him performing “December Poems”.

Listen: Guy Buttery – December Poems


3. Wonderboom


(Status: Active)
Wonderboom have been about for as long as I can remember, and thus earn the title of one of the longest-lived SA rock bands (via a poll of myself). This is no mean feat, as, generally speaking, South African rock outfits have a life expectancy slightly less than that of your “marked down for quick sale” milk.
In 2007, they released their seventh album, “City of Gold”, which proved once again that these guys are one of South Africa’s greats.

Wonderboom hold a special place in my heart; they were one of the opening acts for Live’s first tour of South Africa, and they blew me away with their stage presence.
This single is off their latest album, and is a slightly more mainstream track than the bulk of their stuff; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t up there with their best!

Listen: Wonderboom – Brain


4. Nibs van der Spuy


(Status: Active)
Nibs is a verified acoustic guitar legend of South Africa. I first came across Nibs when he exploded onto the scene with the band, Landscape Prayers, and was an instant fan. This grew with his solo albums, which displayed his incredible diversity; be it African, Classical, Celtic, World, Maskanda, Indian or folk, Nibs had you covered.
His latest album, “Beautiful Feet”, has opened to stellar reviews, and is gaining Nibs a reputation internationally.
This track, “Dream of Believers”, has Nibs at his genre-mixing best; and, incidentally, has him sounding more like Ben Harper than I’ve ever heard before!

Listen: Nibs van der Spuy – Dreams of Believers


5. Dave McMillan


(Status: Active)
I’m letting my bias be known here; Dave “Fingers” Mac is the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place. I was away at camp when I was younger, and there was this kid, a few years younger than me, who picked up a guitar and within 5 minutes had all the girls falling for him.
I wanted to be that kid. And that kid was Dave Mcmillan.
Dave has been the frontman and contibutor to more bands in Durban than I can count. However, recently he’s stepped out as a solo artist, and he’s shining brighter than anyone could have ever imagined. Including collaborations with such artists as Nibs, Guy Buttery, Roly Struckmeyer and Gareth Gale, Dave Mac’s new album is something special. With hints of Rodriguez, James Taylor and Ryan Adams, keep an eye out for Dave.
I wish him all the best.

Oh: And Dave has the entire album up for download (free download, I should add) at his official site linked below. Go get it.

Listen: Dave McMillan – Grow Your Love

Official Site:

6. Freshlyground


(Status: Active)
Freshlyground exploded onto the SA music scene in 2002, and haven’t stopped since. It’s a band made up of individuals from all walks of life, and perfectly blends Afro beats, funk, dance, classical influences and jazz to produce a sound of Africa. Ever since the unstoppable radio hit of “Doo be doo”, Freshlyground is one of those bands who never fails in putting a smile on your face. They continue to make relaxing, easy-listening tracks with their latest release “Ma’Cheri”.

Listen: Freshlyground – Doo be Doo


7. Cynosure


(Status: Defunct)
Cynosure were a band I wish had made it. Cocky and arrogant as all hell, they were made all the more irritating by the fact that they were frikkin’ great. A band that that managed to effortlessly produce colourful, melodic funk pop rock as easily as others breathe should have lasted longer than they did.
This track, “Land of Colour”, shows the pop sensibility that hinted at greatness. It’s too bad boys.

Listen: Cynosure – Land of Colour

8. Farryl Purkiss

Farryl Purkiss

(Status: Active)
Another product of the coastal town of Umhlanga, Farryl Purkiss is one of the shining lights of South African music.
The first time I met Farryl, his “band” (more accurately described as guys who simply wanted to jam without practising) consisting of Farryl, Mark Campbell and Martin “Jiggy” Brennan was opening for my band at the time. I knew within the first chord that these guys would eclipse our efforts; I just didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did.

Farryl has toured both nationally and internationally, with superstars like Missy Higgins and Ben Lee, as well as co-composed and played with Jack Johnson… and now he’s headlined Australia’s famous Big Day Out.

Did I mention that Farryl’s a model? Well, he is. How envious are you now?
Seriously though, Farryl is straight-up one of the nicest musicians I know. When he came down under to tour with Bob Evans, I managed to slip into one of his gigs. Within a second of saying “Howzit?”, Farryl had reminded me of the camraderie that existed in the SA music scene. And, as one of it’s ambassadors, we can’t do much better.

Listen: Farryl Purkiss – Deja Vu


9. The Parlotones

The Parlotones

(Status: Active in UK)
I remember the first time I saw Parlotones play; the lead singer, Kahn Morbee climbed onto the stage, and aimed his trademark megaphone at the microphone, and I knew I was in for a good night.
Due to The Parlotones eccentric creativity, it took a while for them to gain widespread acceptance; in some ways, they’ve reminded me of Radiohead, and the reactions to their more “prog-rock” releases in that regard. However, South Africa has been realising their potential in the last few years, and The Parlotones now stand as one of the bastions of South African rock.
If you get a chance to see these guys live, grab it with both hands.

Listen: The Parlotones – Rock Paper Scissors


10. Syd Kitchen

Syd Kitchen

(Status: Update – Deceased. See here for more.)
Syd Kitchen is to South African music what the Sphynx is to Egypt; a landmark that has seemingly always existed, yet remains a true enigma. Syd Kitchen has been active in the South African music scene since the late 60’s, and has in all that time remained an innovative and non-compromising performer.
Syd’s career has often been described as a portrait of ecclecticism and freedom of spirit; whether it be with the “Kitchen Brothers”, “The Flying Sombreros” or “Bafo Bafo”.

A teacher, thinker, and published poet, Syd Kitchen will always be, for me at least, the godfather of South African music. He is the very heart and soul of it all.

Listen: Syd Kitchen – Africa’s Not For Sissies


11. Just Jinger

Just Jinjer

(Status: Active in the US)
Yes, I used “Jinger”. Yes, I know they go by “Just Jinjer” now, as the Yanks didn’t know how to pronounce their name. But to me, they will always be the Just Jinger of old.

Just Jinger is the biggest selling rock band in South African history, with over a quarter million units sold. Over the last decade, the band has performed and toured with U2, Counting Crows and Def Leppard among many others. Just Jinger, in many ways, are South African music.

I can think of no other local singer who has inspired me as much as Art Matthews. Just Jinger brought with them the promise of reconciliation, in the beginning days of a new South Africa. Ultimately, they represented hope.
I think, in some ways, they always will.

Choosing a track for Just Jinger literally gave me a headache; from songs such as “Here’s to You”, “Home”, “No God”, “Painting Hours”, and “Those Days Are Over”, it was an incredibly difficult decision. In the end though, it was “Father & Farther” that won out.

Listen: Just Jinger – Father & Farther


12. Springbok Nude Girls

Springbok Nude Girls

(Status: Active… for now)
Another band that basically are South African music, the Springbok Nude Girls exploded onto the indie-music scene in the mid-90’s, championing an eclectic and energetic approach to rock music that instantly struck a chord with the university crowd around their hometown of Stellenbosch.

What’s the Nudies music like? Well, take some punk, reggae, scat, metal, funk, jazz and psychedelia; throw it into a big melting pot; stir in some intrinsic Africa… and you have some idea.
Inevitably, the Springbok Nude Girls went the way of the majority of rock acts in SA, and headed into the deadpool on a sad day in South African Music history.

However, after more than 5 years apart, the pull became too much for the boys, and have recently reformed as the (more international sounding) “Nude Girls”. This track is one of the cult-favourites they gave life to…

Listen: Springbok Nude Girls – Bubblegum on my Boots


13. Lucky Dube

Lucky Dube

(Status: Deceased)
I’ve already paid tribute to the passing of Lucky Dube in this post here. As one of the guiding stars of music in South Africa though, we need to pay tribute not only to his passing, but his life.
Lucky Dube made a type of melodious, African reggae that slowly but surely turned him into a superstar. He sang powerfully about social problems, racial inequalities, and his love for God. With the song, “Together As One”, he became the first black artist in South Africa to be played on a white radio station. This alone is an accomplishment that should never be forgotten.
As I said previously, “His political questioning meant that Lucky sang for the people, wanting everyone to live together; in some dark times, he truly was a voice for the voiceless.
Wherever you are now Lucky; I hope it’s irie.

This track, Mask, is less reggae than the bulk of his work; but the sorrow is appropriate. And when that shimmering guitar begins? Man…

Listen: Lucky Dube – Mask


14. Prime Circle

Prime Circle

(Status: Active)
Prime Circle get the “most rapid rise to stardom” award. Forming in 2001, their debut album “Hello, Crazy World” was recorded and released in 2002, and with it, the storming single “Hello”, which catapulted them to the main stage of South African music.
Prime Circle have always been a strange one for me; you can’t deny their musicianship, and they put on great live shows… but in the back of my mind, I can’t help feel that in some ways they are doing “rock by numbers”. That said, they’ve certainly carved their niche in SA music, and deserve to be on this list.

Listen: Prime Circle – Let Me Go


15. Mr Smug

Mr Smug

(Status: Defunct)
I actually auditioned for Mr Smug, back in the day. Needless to say, I was turned down. Regardless, Mr Smug were an awesome band.
Marcel will probably be less than chuffed that I’ve included Mr Smug on this list, and not their current incarnation, “Sheep Down”. However, I would have been doing myself a disservice to not include them here. Mr Smug was a true bastion of South African punk, from their days at the Mishi Jones baseball park’s “Uprising” concerts, to their nights at the Winston. Hard, fast, and at times sloppy, Mr Smug rocked, and you rocked along with them.

As a side note, if anyone has their track “Paradise Road”, with it’s killer horns, please get in touch. For now, you’ll have to make do with the track “Little Blue Wave”.

Listen: Mr Smug – Little Blue Wave

16. Squeal


(Status: Defunct)
Any kid who was even the slightest bit interested in rock in the 90’s would have heard of Squeal. Fronted by Dave Birch, Squeal were the quintessential rock group; bad asses who would throw out some balls to the wall rock, while you slugged back a Black Label at the festival grounds. Go on, deny you did.
Long Pig, their debut album, was probably one of my favourite albums of the decade, and this song, “See Saw”, was one of it’s most haunting tracks.

Listen: Squeal – See Saw

17. Vusi Mahlasela


(Status: Active)
Dave Matthews, of the DMB, said of Vusi Mahlasela, “Vusi has a sort of profound beauty about him. He has a light on… And that’s something he would share with Bob Marley, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye or Miles Davis.” High praise indeed, but it’s deserved praise. Vusi’s sound is a hybrid of folk, world, blues and soul, one that connects South Africa’s Apartheid-scarred past with its promise for a better future. Writer, poet, political activist and consumate performer, Vusi truly is a guiding star in SA music.

Listen: Vusi Mahlasela – Thula Mama


18. Henry Ate

Henry Ate

(Status: Defunct)
Comprised of Karma-Lee Swanepoel and Julian Sun, Henry Ate were one of the most honest bands I ever had the priviledge of hearing. Karma had this innocence and beauty to her voice that simply crushed you; and Julian Sun’s backing vocals and guitar were the perfect complement. Henry Ate took you on a journey, and you never were concerned about the destination; the journey was all that mattered.
This single, ‘Just’ is one of the most widely played singles South Africa has ever experienced. It’s a guitar folk song filled with excitement and seriousness in the same breath, a dynamic piece of pop history that will probably always remind some of the open fields at festivals.

Listen: Henry Ate – Just

19. Perez


(Status: Active. Well, er. Sometimes. For Reunion gigs. When they’re all in the same country.)
(Update: Officially rocking again. Can you say “Hell yeah”?)

Perez. ‘Nuff said.

Nah, just kidding. But come on.. it’s Perez. These guys, I’m sure, were the inspiration for more bands starting up in my hometown of Durban than any other South African band. Perez exploded on the scene with no warning. Within 18 months of their debut show they managed to clock up 4 number 1 singles and sell out just about every live venue in South Africa, still holding attendance records at some of them.

The first time I heard them, I knew that music was what I wanted to do. Point blank. Mike Goddard, the drummer for the band, had been a few years ahead of me at school; and it absolutely blew me away that someone I knew could be on the radio, with a single that I couldn’t get out of my head. It was totally surreal.
The rest of the band were all familiar faces around Umhlanga; it was not surprising that they had a near cult-level local following.

Perez sadly broke up, and I don’t think South African music ever quite got over it. They represented every hope, and every dream we had, of exposing South African rock to an international audience. I remember the exact moment I recieved the news they were breaking up. It was at a band rehearsal, and we all just looked at each other; it was like we had lost the heart and soul of everything we were trying to do.

I left the country for a while. Did some travelling. As fortune had it, upon my return (I was only coming back for 5 days, before jetting out again), all the members of Perez found themselves in the same country, and did a single reunion gig in Durban, at the Bat Centre.
That night, I saw gods play on that stage. And if there’s one band I want to extend a “thank you” to, it’s Perez. Thanks guys.

Listen: Perez – Wasted Out

20. Arno Carstens

Arno Carstens

(Status: Active)
Already featured on this list (lead singer of Springbok Nude Girls), Arno features again for his solo efforts. With his solo stuff, Arno hits and much as he misses; but when he hits, it stays hit.

Listen: Arno Carstens – Another Universe


21. Saron Gas

Saron Gas

(Status: Active, in the US, as Seether)
Not many Yanks know this. Seether began their career as a band from Maritzburg, called Saron Gas. Saron Gas slipped away quietly to the United States to perform a showcase with a large independent record label. The result of that meeting? A seven album record deal, change of band name and relocation to the United States.
The US may have become base for Saron Gas/Seether, but SA had them back before they started playing for the labels, as opposed to the music. We had them when they produced stonkers like “69Tea”, below.

Listen: Saron Gas – 69Tea


22. Deluxe


(Status: Defunct)
I only played at the same festival as Deluxe once, which was fine by me, because it allowed me to appreciate their shows all the more. Deluxe were fantastic songwriters; they had that ability that only comes along every so often, to draw you in with their music and drag you along on their journey.
Deluxe ended far too soon. Had they continued on that journey, I have no doubt that they could have broken internationally. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

Listen: Deluxe – Let You Go

23. Sitter


(Status: Active)
Again, declaring bias here. I used to be a member of Sitter, back in the days when it was me, Adrian Arlt, Gary Wolno and Edan Latz. Eventually, the music wasn’t going in a direction that I wanted to follow though, and I ended up leaving. Soon after, Adrian headed overseas.
Never one to let something stand in their way, Sitter carried on and gained two new members, Darryn and Theo. I still get updated on how they’re doing across the pond, and from all reports they seem to be going from strength to strength, which is awesome. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more hard-working bunch in SA music than these guys.
This is actually a new version of a song that I originally recorded with them, called “The Music”. On this version, Quincy from Big Idea (listed above) busts some rhymes. I have to be honest; I think this version is way better than the one I was on :)

Listen: Sitter – The Music


24. Movie55


(Status: Active. Sort of. Only every now and again. So I hear.)
Movie55 were brought to my attention by Wicked Mike (Hi Mike!). At the time, he was managing them, and said they were probably one of the most exciting outfits he had come across in recent times. Not only highly professional, but creative and heartfelt with it.
Mike sometimes talks things up a bit, which is not to say anything bad against the guy, but it is his job after all. He cares about these bands. So I listened to the song, not really expecting it to live up to his hype.
I was wrong. Another band that could have gone far.

Listen: Movie55 – Save Myself

25. Boon


(Status: Active)
One-time lead singer for the afore-mentioned Movie55, BOON is quickly making a name for himself in South Africa as a solo artist. The themes of BOON’s music relate down-to-earth, everyday life, running the full gamut from kissing to loneliness, birth to death. No matter what form the songs are delivered in, it’s always music for the masses.
When I first heard the below single, I wasn’t sure about it… until that chorus kicked in. It’s haunting. Stick with it. I guarantee that after a few spins it will grow on you.

Listen: BOON – Silent Scream


26. Tree


(Status: Active)
Known as Tree63 in the States, Tree were a staple of the 90’s Durban Music scene. Due to them being a band that proudly displayed their christian beliefs, they were sometimes sidelined by those in the music establishment who dismissed them as a “church band”; which was a great shame, as they were a band with a great innate pop-rock sensibility.
Ultimately, it was only a matter of time until one of the major Christian labels snapped them up, and in Tree’s case it was the powerhouse UK outfit, Kingsway Music. They’re still rocking up the worship festivals worldwide, last I heard. And in addition, they’re some of the friendliest guys you’ll ever meet, so if you see them around, say hi.

Listen: Tree – A Million Lights


27. Max Normal

Max Normal

(Status: Well… active… but not in the incarnation below)
When I say Max Normal, I’m talking about the Max Normal that ended in 2002, with their last performance as the support group for Faithless in Cape Town. The Max Normal that released the groundbreaking album “Songs from the Mall” in 2001.
Max Normal were, for me, the band that dispelled the myth that white men couldn’t do the hip hop crowd proud in SA; their distinct style of rap, lyrical and beat composition dominated “Songs from the Mall”, and with it there was little doubt that these guys offered the SA hip hop community something entirely original, creative and 100% proudly South African.

Listen: Max Normal – Hazel’s Joint

28. Tweak


(Status: Defunct)
Tweak’s brand of pop-punk never changed my world. But I found myself unable to leave them off this list, simply for the fact that Tweak was largely instrumental in exposing “punk” to a larger South African audience. Now, I know I’m going to get flamed for this, but please note the inverted commas around “punk”. There are plenty of other bands who were flying the punk banner high before Tweak (one of my favourites always being Pet Flyz), but it was Tweak, with their brand of inoffensive, radio-friendly, pop punk that gained punk more mainstream exposure. Criticize them all you want, but they did us a favour.

Listen: Tweak – Down By Da River

29. Plush


(Status: Defunct)
The first time I heard Plush, I dropped everything to listen. It’s not often a band comes along that stops you dead in your tracks, but Plush was just such a band.

Plush were an acoustic rock band based out of Cape Town, comprising of Rory Eliot and Chas Smit. Together they were described as “so unbelievably tight that they sound as though they are one masterful musician, playing two guitars, with four arms and one almighty voice“. Plush were everything I had been waiting for. They wrote songs that spoke to you. Welcomed you in. Sat you down with a beer, and lent a sympathetic ear for all your hurts. They played the soundtrack to your life. Plush, in my opinion, had the potential to be the best thing out of South Africa. Ever.
Plush’s rocket ride to stardom ended tragically when Smit was killed by a drunk driver when attempting to cross a street in Pietermaritzburg in September 2005.

I, along with many South Africans, shed a tear that day.

Listen: Plush – Erla


30. Rory Eliot & The Reason

Rory Eliot

(Status: Active)
Rory Eliot, one half of Plush, took a 6 month sabbatical following the tragic passing of bandmate Chas Smit, before returning to the music scene as a solo artist.
Eliot joined up with drummer Ben Peters, a former contributor to Plush, and again shared a stage as old Plush favourites, and an increasing repertoire of new tracks saw sell-out crowds and packed venues all over Cape Town. Soon, word of Eliot’s return spread. In early 2007, bass player Louis Roux, opted in to create Rory Eliot and The Reason.
I hold out high hopes for Rory Eliot & The Reason. They’ll never quite be Plush, but neither would I want them to be. But the fact that Rory is carrying on the dream that he and Chas shared is surely a symbol of hope.

Listen: Rory Eliot & The Reason – When Grace Grew Tall



And there you go; thanks for sticking with me through that. Again, of course there are plenty of other artists who could feature here, so please don’t flame me!
But if you want to spread the word about YOUR favourite South African band, then drop me a line, or leave me a comment, and make yourself heard!

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162 replies on “The 30 South African bands you NEED to hear!”

Fantastic blog! A for effort and A for taste. And i get an A for appreciating a ton of those bands. South Africa is the last golden pot for the Western music industry. Our diversity and tribulations make us unique. Anyone telling the world that gets saluted by me! Thanks.

What exeptional memories some of these bands bring.Lisitened to Guy Buttery,beutifull music.

South Africa has got so much to offer to the resty of the world, all we need is someone to promote all the talent in our country.

Thanks to Wicked Mike from Wicked Rock for dedicating his life not on making money, but doing what he loves.Giving Musicians wings to explore.

Rock & Roll Regards


Hey Matt! Cool shit man. Give me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you (Paradise Road). BTW the song you got up is called Little Blue Wave


Power list Matt – good to see you’re still keeping your finger on the pulse of the SA music scene. There’s a bit of a rock/folk slant, but as always with lists like these, subjectivity is king, & influences/preferences predominate. Personally, I’d also encourage folks to take a listen to the dub beats of 340ml (technically Mozambiquan, but they’ve been on the SA scene long enough for us to claim them as our own), the hip-hop of Tumi & the Volume, & the electro-funk of Goldfish. Glad that Max Normal got an honourable mention.

Go well, & keep flying the flag.

@ Boon,
Thanks for dropping by mate… am loving your stuff, so keep on keeping on!

@ Paul,
Doh! I knew that was wrong, and was taking an educated guess. Fixed now though :)
Drop an email to matthew.edward.burgess [at]… would love to get in touch about the Sheep Down stuff as well.

@ Vrish,
How are ya buddy? I might be slipping a bit behind (Goldfish?), but HAVE to agree on both 340ml (awesome live performances), and Tumi & the Volume… great selections both!

@ Aids,
China! How’s the weather there?

Morning. Don’t know whether you have heard of/ heard the music of the City Bowl Mizers or caught a show of theirs. Probably the finest example of songwriting that has ever to emerge out of SA and a live performance that is infectious. I predict that they will be THE international break-out act to hail from these shores

Hey Andrew,
Thanks for stopping by! I haven’t managed to catch City Bowl Mizers live yet, but I have heard good things about their shows before (I can‘t remember who from, possibly Sheep Down or possibly Starplayer, can‘t quite remember now).
I have heard some of their stuff on myspace before though, and it did indeed rock.

I believe they’re on tour at the moment, any idea how it‘s going?

Good selection of bands.

I’m been unsuccessfull in trying to obtain a legal purchase or download of Squeal’s Long Pig – especially the song “See saw. Scoured the net and music shops for this one.

Can you possibly help ?

@ Sitter,

Thanks boys, glad to see you around! Hope the UK is jamming out for you guys :)

@ Konrad,
Unfortunately I’m not sure which CD stores would still be selling Long Pig… drop me a line to my email listed on my “Music Policy” page, and we can talk…

good to see somone out there promoting local musos what a pity the internet was not around 20 yrs ago as there was some awesome talent around …love the selection

Hiya Kevin,
Many thanks for dropping by. Yeah, the internet’s definitely changed the face of music… glad you managed to use it to find this post :)

Oh gawd!! This brought me right back home and smiling!
I feel so proud when I read through all these bands and know that I’ve seen them all and they are super amazing talent!
I’m gona keep checking this out!
Great, Great job!

PS: Apparently Fetish are still around?

Fuzigish Fuzigish FUZIGISH! How can you ignore one of the most influential and valuable bands that have almost single handedly (at times) kept the gauteng underground scene barely standing. Four albums, international tours, organising NoFX, Mad Caddies, Lagwaggon, and more to come. Their unique style cannot be ignored, i am dissapointed they are not here but someone like Tweak is. Fuzigish have contributed insurmountably to South African music!

Aparently you have no taste whatsoever.

Wonderboom? Just Jinger? Parlotones? Fuck!

What about Seether, Wickhead, Groinchurn (broken up), etc.

We’ve all heard the same songs from these bands mentioned above for too long. They suck!

Hello Enemyroy, trav and Unknown,

Sorry for the late replies to your comments, but I’ve been offline for about two weeks.

Definitely, Fuzigish deserve a place in SA’s music hall of fame, and I think most of my readers would realise that. Unfortunately, I had to cut off the list SOMEWHERE. As I said above, there are hundreds of bands that should be listed above, but I simply couldn’t include them all.
That said, no arguments from me… Fuzigish are titans.

Thanks for stopping by. The Rudimentals are pretty kick-ass, I heard them play with Mr Smug once.

Heh. I can only assume you didn’t actually read the post. You’re berating me for not including certain bands, but one of those is Seether.
You DO realise that Saron Gas (listed above) is the incarnation that Seether started out as, right? So, I included the original. Would it have made sense to include them in both incarnations? Not to my mind.

I actually played festivals with Wickhead twice, and in addition to that we opened for them at the Wavehouse way back when… and you’re right, they certainly were awesome. But again… as I said above, this list could have gone on forever if I included all the bands that I liked… but I had to stop the list SOMEWHERE. Also, I’d ask you to bear in mind that my readers are primarily from outside of SA… so not many of them have heard the “same songs from these bands” as you state.

Thanks for you opinion though.

Hi Miriam,

Thanks for stopping by. You’re quite right, Dirty Skirts wasn’t included on the above list, as I’m not all that familiar with their stuff (that said, I *did* leave SA at the end of 2005… how long have the Dirty Skirts been around?)

Interestingly enough though, you’re the second person who’s brought that name up (the other was a friend in passing conversation), so obviously they’re a band that I should check out!

Hey Simon,
Thanks for stopping by! Man, you just brought back some awesome memories, I’d forgotten all about them! Great track, unfortunately I’m not sure what happened to them either. If anyone has any info about the band, drop a comment!

Great Blog.. and to think I landed here by chance.

Quite ironic that you’ve included Dave Mac as I used to work with his brother and I’m hoping to catch up with him somehow to see if he can assist with my wife’s band.

One SA Band I play regular is Qkumba Zoo.. for some weird reason, I really enjoy their music.. ahead of their time.

Can anyone help please , I am looking for copies of videos from a few SA alternative bands from the 80’s and 90’s.
The Gathering, No Friends of Harry, The Outsiders amd Fetish.
Need to post them on youtube,
Thanks in advance and thanks for a great website.

Hi Andy and frederick,
Thanks to you both for leaving a comment… man, both of you brought back some wicked memories. Andy, Qkumba Zoo certainly were ahead of their time, no doubt… and frederick, “No Friends of Harry”? Man, that’s a name I haven’t heard for years :P Unfortunately I can’t help you out for your quest for videos, but hopefully someone who can will stumble across this post. Let us know if you eventually do get a hold of them.

Help….do any of you know of any good South African bands/trios who either reside in or might be passing through New York on December 4/5th 2009? I am helping to organize a Birthday Celebration for a Durban ex-pat living in the area. Want someone good, but with traditional flair.

update update update. what about
the lua union
the sleepers
steve newman (ok that's not new, but he's genius)
stack shot jack
foto na dans
the backyard crew
boo! (they're back. feb 2010. ramfest)

I'm sure that they are… but from what I know of the band, they only came out within the last two years. Seeing as this post was written OVER two years ago, and I've been out of South Africa for longer than that, you shouldn't be too surprised… ;)

Help! Im looking for a christian band from south africa that visted munster Indiana (FCC). I think the name is “arrows”, the band was with kim clement. Please email me if you know who i am talking about. I want to purchase a C.D. thank you. Julie

check out kim clement on tour– the arrows played in deroit michigan tonight–i was there–they are good–kim clement's backing vocalist is vocals and keyboard–kim clement's bassist plays bass–and a cute little drummer girl plays drums–you can contact me if you need on myspace search–chris zadrozny–should show 28 in westland mi

Hey this is a great blog and I love that you have kept it so uniqly African. I believe that the South African music indusrty has grown so much over the past couple of years and it has so much potential. I love all the bands mentioned above but other ones that I would add are Zebra & Giraffe, Goldfish, Dear Reader, Stealing love Jones and Jesse Clegg because they are just so awesome. SA has alot to offer in terms of the diverse music and if people keep on coming with great music we can go very far.

Hey this is a great blog and I love that you have kept it so uniqly African. I believe that the South African music indusrty has grown so much over the past couple of years and it has so much potential. I love all the bands mentioned above but other ones that I would add are Zebra & Giraffe, Goldfish, Dear Reader, Stealing love Jones and Jesse Clegg because they are just so awesome. SA has alot to offer in terms of the diverse music and if people keep on coming with great music we can go very far.

Dude, need to listen to some of the new stuff out there – all good choices but have a crack at Fuzigish, Waddie Jones's Die Antwoord, The Shadow Club, aKing, Locnville, Yesterdays Pupil and Haezer! You'll love it.

P.S. Cool blog

Hey therooga,
I totally agree, I really DO need to listen to some of the new stuff from SA; the thing is, a lot of it is hard to get out here in Australia (seeing as I've been in Aus for close on 5 years now!). If any South African bands want to send some stuff my way for review though, I'm more than happy to take a look at it.

That said, in response to your mentions: Fuzigish have been mentioned numerous times above over the years, and every time, I say the same thing: “I know, I know, but I had to end the list SOMEWHERE!” :P
Also, I'll point out that since this list, I've mentioned both aKing (see this post: “Stop the presses. aKING is South Africa’s next big thing.” from 2008, and more recently I mentioned Die Antwoord here: “Die Antwoord… Can't tell you how proud I am of these guys”.

I'll definitely need to take a look into your other mentions though… new names to me there!

awesome hun!!! but you forgot to mention our amazing metal bands!! S.A has come a long long way and I respect anyone who takes the effort to try ;) Ive been jamming to all these bands since I was 13, 17yrs later I still cant stay away!!…now that Im dating a band member Im being dragged to all these music festivals and meeting the most amazing people!!! thanks for the awesome blog!!

Well appriciated mate…i love to see there are some people out there who still know where we come from an the music we grew up with..and your have more music talent then anyone knows…i miss the the buzz that a sa band gives you…its just not the same…

There is a band that started touring with Blue October Sept 24, 2010 from South Africa. I missed the name. They were great! Can anybody help me out?

I thought that the list was pretty interesting. Glad to see Max Normal in there, they were so original. I know ALL the words to Songs from the Mall – PULL!

There are some bands on here I will be checking out as they are new to my ears. For me Just Jinger were good in their day, but the last time I heard them (2009) I felt they had sold out and sounded too 'Americanized'. I bought their CD before they played, but have never taken it out of the box since the gig.

For some real original sounds I would have included Boo! (incredible band I discovered too late too ever catch live), or Hog Hoggity Hog (African Sun, always gets me smiling). I would have inclouded either of those in place of Just Jinger. That's just my view though. Prehaps we should be writing a longer list? lol ;-)

Long live SA music!

Hiya SuperGroupie,
Thanks for the comment : )

Agreed on both Boo and Hog Hoggidy Hog… but as you say, the list had to end somewhere!
Totally agree that JJ’s sound had become to Americanised later on, but bear in mind that this list was written in 2007, and I left South Africa in 2005… so “my” Just Jinger was really the “All Comes Round” era etc… not the “Milk and Honies” sound from 2009 :)

On the David Lettermen show about a year ago, I saw a South African a capella group that sang African songs. They were all white guys, about six of them, and they were fantastic. I think their name was a single word, in English. Any idea who they might be? Thanks much, Mark Thiel.

I was looking through these bands, and a lot of them look really interesting. I’ll definitely need to do some more research on them.
I started looking into S. African music after having seen the film “White Wedding,” and being that I love music spanning across genres, the soundtrack gave me some new music to investigate.
You should check it out, if you’re interested:

What about the SA progressive hardcore scene?

There are some pretty awesome Cape Town bands that fall into that genre.

Versus the wolf and even Autumn of August!!

I’m sure by now this post needs an update JP, so no doubt there are quite a few bands who could now be added to this list. After all, the post is well over 3 years old, and I left SA over 5 years ago ;)

Hey Dave – nice blog mate – just wondered how Sugardrive missed out? Or maybe Amersham or Plum? Probably too long ago I imagine…

Hey Tony, thanks for the comment. Although, I’m not Dave, sorry to say :)
That said, Amersham were VERY close to getting onto this list when I originally wrote it over 3 years ago, so you obviously have great taste!

I would like to know if anyone remembers 2 bands (alternative) One was called No Friends of Harry and the other was called The Gathering. I would like to know were I can find some of their music. They made Live appearances at The Thunder Dome in Nugget street JHB owned by Lucky Dube in Early 90’s

Cool list dude, just wanted to say that Plush is active again and they’ve just released a new album.

I heard some great music growing up in JHB in the 80’s, will have to hear some of the new stuff. Jesus rules OK..

Hey, Have u heard anything of the SA band called “citizen cane”? they might be out of job now, but still.
would appreciate the answer.

really..?! out of 30 south african bands there are no all female bands and only one has a female artist.. hmm..

Hey Rochelle, thanks for the comment :)
Small little quibble… there are actually TWO bands mentioned above with female leads, both Henry Ate and Freshly Ground rocked the girl power. I also mentioned Brenda Fassie right in the post opening.

On your main point though, I’d love to hear your thoughts on those that should have made the list. Please bear in mind though that this was written in 2007, and as I mention above, it was based on my musical experience in South Africa up to 2005 (when I emigrated), so try and restrict it to bands contemporary around that time.
One of the artists who springs to mind is Jo Day, who was definitely on my mind when writing this list, but – as I’ve said – I had to stop it somewhere! : )
Jo was/is a shining light for SA musos… she really helped my band out when we were starting out, covering us in her zine which gave us some cool momentum to start off with.

Must say though, the concept of gender never came into my head at all when I originally drew this list up… these were just the bands that I enjoyed; so I’d really love to see your thoughts on who else should have made it onto here :)

hey, no complaints, your blog is great! i was more suprised than anything..
i am australian and have a south african just move in with me, was trying to remember the name of a SA band i liked and saw a few times in london several years ago. was great to be able to just google ‘south african bands’ and your blog came up first :) (the band was prime circle actually)..
i don’t really know any female sa bands, with the exception of freshly ground’s lead, so i cant really help you out there.. but please feel free to share any others, would love to hear them :)

To all South African bands willing to perform in Dubai and other countries,can contact

Kindly email me your video links,pictures,profile and repertoire


I didn’t read thru all the comments so dunno if someone else picked up the Nine are not on the list, nor Lithium. Having Arno Cartens AND SNG is not fair – that should count as one…..

Hi there i need to research a rock band called ‘Rebirth’if it existes. Honestly ive never heard of them but i need to find out what they are about, do you perhaps know of a website or somewhat where i can get more information about them?!

I have a copy od Squeal’s long pig if yr earlier postee is still looking. drop me a line if so
also why no scooters, no famous curtain trick

Posted by Magoos on February 17th, 2012, 08:25 [Reply]
I have a copy od Squeal’s long pig if yr earlier postee is still looking. drop me a line if so
also why no scooters, no famous curtain trick
Hi. I’m the old man looking for Squeal’s Long Pig- can you possible help ? Konrad.

Slightly Durban-biased list… interesting….but Just Jinger… gimme a break. If anything they’re an example of our lack of musical culture, the exact opposite of “mingling of local differences and outside influences; giving it all a special essence that carries with it the unmistakeable flavour of the country”… the unmistakable flavour of bland whitey mediocrity is more like it. What about Blk Jks? Now there’s a band that may not have sold a quarter of a million units but at least aspire to that special essence to which you refer..

Thanks for the comment Steve… no doubt it’s Durban biased, seeing as that’s my hometown :) I’d argue your Just Jinger point a fair bit. But before I did, I wanted to make sure we’re talking about the same Just Jinger… I’m not talking about the “Just Jinjer” that they became. I totally agree with you, if that’s the incarnation you’re referring to. Their music became… well, bland… and completely imitative of international sounds. However, around the time of All Comes Around, I still feel Just Jinger were representing Saffa grooves as it should have been.

Man this is such a great list. Cynosure were a really talented band back then, I’m surprised they never stuck at it. They were pretty refreshing in their style compared to the majority of other bands who always seemed to focus on the “American” sounds.

I saw the Parlotones around 2004 or 2005 and they struck me as a band with a lot of potential, simply because the lead singer was so good on stage. They were playing to a crowd of around 10 or 15 people but still gave lots of energy. They lacked instrumental ability big time (esp bassist) and the frontman carried them a LOT. In music it’s extremely hard to find a frontman with that presence and vocal ability (better to watch live than a recording actually!), and they were/are very lucky to have him!

Max Normal was genius – saw him at a festival i think called Flux or something and they were properly unique!

Glad to see Farryl Purkiss here too – very good musician to watch in an acoustic set.

R… sounds like we would have been going to a lot of the same gigs! Good music taste you have there ;)

Reading this sitting in my office in the UK and its taking me back to 2001 – matric and my first Splashey Fen. Good times. Listening to Plush now and missing home (and being back at Uni, so much easier than being at work)

PS: Where’s Sibling, though? :)

Wendy, are you talking about Sibling Rivalry? Man, there’s a band I haven’t thought about in a while… we played against them in a bunch of Battle of the Bands at the Winston! Thanks for bringing back fond memories :)

Brings back so many memories of home. havent thought of some of these bands in years. Seriously looking for an SA rock band called “180” anyone know then and where i can purchase some of their music? Also looking for Local bands from East London area called “snail” and “turmoil” if anyone knows anything. Thanks for the great blog….

FANTASTIC list! Even though I’m a touch late to the party, I have to say I agree on most counts. A very rad band to check out would be Knave. Also, for one iconic song purposes, I’d like to add The Narrow.

Quote: “It’s been brought to my attention that some people aren’t sure how to stream the songs…”, easy? Because they’d expired? Stupid Huh… Would be nice to hear these guys instead of, ahem, I’m playing as nice as possible, instead of silly comments. At least there’s an update on, “The links have expired”, pity no apology. Here’s a South African in New Zealand trying to show off some “Home Grown” and the links don’t play. How about removing the links to avoid disappointment…? “Easy, Huh?”

Hey Greg, must be honest… bit surprised by your comment there. First off, the “It’s been bought to my attention…” comment was the first update in the post. That update was made 2 days after I published this post back in 2007… coming up on 5 years ago. When I made that update, the songs WEREN’T expired. Then, as you noted, I have a second update mentioning that the songs are now expired. I only expired the links to the songs in 2010, 3 years after I posted this. There are a number of reasons for this, including legalities of keeping these songs up.

But considering I hosted these songs for 3 years, copping a hammering of downloads and bandwidth use, methinks that most people were pretty happy with it. So, no, I don’t think I need to offer any apologies for hosting these songs for three years, free. Nor do I think I need to apologise for taking the time to put this post together over 5 years ago. As you can see by the fact that there are over 90 comments on this page, some people were grateful that I took the time to put it up.

Fistly,.just press the ”small play icon”??..” it’s so easy”!!!(sarc. , sarc) Do us a favour,..YOU TRY THAT!! it doesn’t work Dick-head!!!! Never read all the coments..BUT.. S.A sure does seem to have a lot of wankers running around out there!!!

Hey JJ,
I must admit, I’m puzzled by your comment. I mean, you obviously read the explanation of how the mp3s work… did you read the VERY NEXT LINE where it explained that since that first update, the mp3 links have been expired? So, with the links expired, of course they won’t play. But hey, feel free to call me whatever names you want if it makes you feel better. Me, I’ll keep sending the mp3s to those people who ask nicely, and keep being a “dick-head” to those who are rude :)

An apology is DEFINATELY in order here!!…too many tequilas i’m afraid!!..what can i say??.. you are obviously a man with integrity and EXTREME self control!!!…guess it’s ”dick-head to me then !!!…

Hi I am an ex- South African guitar player residing in the USA.

Could you please change Syd Kitchen’s status. My friend Skydlle’s passed away last year…..a victim of lung cancer-just as things were really starting to move for him and he was getting international dates etc. I highly recommend listeners to check him out on iTunes. There is also a film on him called “Fool In A Bubble”. He was an extremely original and innovative player and songwriter….a great poet also.

Hi Lister,
Thanks for stopping by and reminding me of this. I was very saddened to hear about Syd’s passing last year, but as this is an old post I hadn’t remembered to come back to update it. Update has now been made to reflect this. Thanks for sharing your kind words about Syd too. He truly was a massive inspiration to so many of us.

I’m sorry to hear about Syd Kitchen. He helped us get a foot up in the SA music industry back in ’93 when I was in the band ‘Gateway’. Really great guy. He even got us a gig opening up for ‘Squeel’, another of the artists mentioned in this post. On a side note, my one bandmate and I got to visit the studio in Durban and chat with the guys who recorded Squeel’s ‘Long Pig’ album. Those were great times in SA. Thanks for the awesome blog post.

Hey hey, I know that list was originally done in 2007, so I am a bit late with this comment…
But Tweak does still exist – since 2006 they have been going by the name CrashCarBurn. They moved to London and did the name change, but brought it back home in 2007.

You have a great idea with this blog; really presents a neat survey of some of the SA stuff the rest of the world never gets to hear.

Do you have any idea whatever happened to “Oom?” They used to have some great stuff on the old MP3.Com before the Website was killed off by corporate greed and bungling. Nice bluesy/reggae feel to Oom’s music — now seemingly invisible on the Web.

Hey Guys, I am planning a major interactive culturally diverse industrial, commercial, arts and agricultural show in PE. Dates 27 Nov 2013 – 1 Dec 2013. I am looking for great crowd pleasing bands, solo artists, bands to take part in the battle of the bands and do you rock compo. We have been given the green light by tourism and business in the area. It will have car, bike, hot rods show etc. expo’s, stalls, displays, equine events and more. Email Warren for more info or phone 0720479014

ekse my broer lekka scripting you done here, just kidding thanks for the memories, remember a band Eminant Child and what about Flat Stanley? Been in the states myself and also need to catch up on new bands.Keep well my china

Your write up of Max Normal is so spot on. Have you seen him now? So great to see him doing so well now, absolute genius! Die Antwoord. So freaking amazing. The whole of Europe and the States are buzzing about these guys, the only international SA act to hit the big time in recent times. Well played! When i saw Max Normal I felt this guy was going places, didn’t think it would hit this level though!

Cheers, R. Yeah, when I pull out the “Songs from the Mall” CD out here in Aus, people can’t believe it’s the same dude! :)

I can’t believe you keep replying to this blog – people can be so messed up. Personally, I’d like to thank you – and a bunch of the “nice guys” that replied, for a very comprehensive list of south african music old and new.

Hey Miki,
No problem… as much as time allows, I’ll keep on replying here. After all, I did start this post to get some conversation going, even if it includes some… er, rude people ;)

Thanks for the kind words!

Hi Matt,

Let me just personally commend you on the work that you put into this blog of the 30 SA bands that you need to hear. I also must thank you for introducing me to some bands that I have never even heard of up until now, as I am in my early 20’s :). The bands that I must say that really want to listen to: Cynosure, Mr Smug, Squeal, Perez and Plush.
On a side note I own all the Tweak albums, and also own the Saron Gas album. I also heard SITTER the other day, and managed to get hold of Gary Wolno via email, and he posted me their albums, WOW, I REALLY LOVE THEIR STUFF. The other two bands that I would have liked to see on your list would be Mean Mr. Mustard and Starplayer. If you have some time, check out Stuart Reece Band, GREAT MUSIC.
Lastly is there any other bands, old or new from SA that played good punk music/rock/pop, not Fuzigish though, something with punk/post hardcore/rock etc.


Hey Hein,
Thanks for the kind words, and glad I can help expose some of you youngsters to good tunes! :)
The bands you listed that you really want to listen to are all amazing – and I’m really stoked Gaz sent you off the Sitter albums. Not sure if you read in detail up above, but I was actually in the band for a period of time too. Mean Mr Mustard were awesome, and we actually gigged with Starplayer a couple of times – I also think Theo (who joined Sitter after I left the band) played for Starplayer for a while?

Thanks for stopping by!

Yes Matt,

I had read above that you were in the Band Sitter, (Someday I’ll Try Treat Everyone Right). I need to dig up some more info on Starplayer, love their track Automatic.


remember bands like Circus( Bernie and Cyndi), Omega Ltd, all way ahead of their time. ( and i am giving my age away here!!

The new band Tracers should also probably be on here. Saw them in Stellenbosch a few times now, really energetic and passionate performance. They’ve only been playing for about 2 years and are still very young.

Hey Jake,
Happy to do an updated post with new artists, if labels want to get in touch. The issue is it’s coming up on nearly 10 years since I left SA, so I’m obviously in the dark about newer bands like Tracers.

Hey Jake :) I play bass for Tracers and I just want to say thanks for the massive compliment. We’re just starting out and played our fist show on the 27th of May at Aandklas. We’ve only been together since January 2014. (Fresh out of highschool)
Go have a look at our Facebook page for upcoming gigs etc. ;)

Hey, Matt, great work you did on this list, man. Your efforts are appreciated. I “stumbled” upon this post in my search for two songs I used to hear on Jacaranda FM. Wonder if you know who sings these songs. The first, as i remember, goes like “I wanna see you smiling high, shining everytime i see your face…” And the other one says “I wanna tell you everyday that i love you paradise, I wanna show you in everyway how I love you paradise…”. I want to buy these albums if they are still on sale. Used to hear them on Jacaranda fm between 2005 and 2007. Please help me get the song names and artists if you get time. Please, man.

Hey Selby – bad news I’m afraid, if the tunes were playing in the 05-07 years, that was just after I left the country… so I probably haven’t heard them unfortunately. The lyrics don’t sound familiar. Any other readers able to help out Selby on this one?

Alright, thanks, Matt, I understand. Hopefully someone may happen to know something and help out.

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