Unsung Heroes – Ten South African Artists To Keep An Eye on In 2019


Words by | Lu Makoboka

There has never been a better time to be a South African artist more than right now, and the year of 2018 certainly cemented that statement. Various bands and artists took full advantage of the proliferation of streaming services and demonstrated to international audiences that there is more than just Hip-Hop, House and Afro-Soul going on in SA. The artists that are mentioned below are almost in a league of their own since they are walking on a road less travelled and leading a more ‘unconventional’ sound. Other lists similar to this tend to put a spotlight on artists that have been in the limelight; it’s time for a bit of a change don’t you think?

Darkie Fiction |

2018 was probably the year I consumed the most amount of music in my life. And out of everything that I heard, the sound of Darkie Fiction’s Sobabini: A Mzantsi Evolution EP is something that I can never forget. Truth is Darkie Fiction (made up of Katt Daddy and Yoza Mnyanda) unites with their genre instead of dividing us, particularly if one is South African. Kwaito may be the most evident influence in their sound but it’s also the embryonic 50 shades of Electronica, Afrobeat and Hip Hop that is giving us eargasms. The pair made it on Apple Music’s list for ‘A-List songs out of Africa 2018’, particularly for their hard-hitting and joyous track titled ‘Bhoza’. This was undoubtedly deserved especially because of the Afrocentric messages and stories entrenched within their works.  Listen Now

World of Birds |

If you’re having a day that isn’t going your way at all, World of Birds is one of the few local bands that make music cheerful enough to transform your entire day. Remember Al Baire, well this 3 piece is led by Al Baire frontman Nic Preen with Benjamin McCarthy on keys, and Conor McCarthy on guitar. Their Indie pop spectacle ‘Open Up’ amassed an impressive amount of streams on Spotify, eventually making it to number one in two different countries and landing on Spotify’s Top 50 Viral tracks. In the space of a year, this band had done what very few have, including touring parts of Europe without actually having a full-length project. 2019 may be the year that changes since there have been talks of an EP release throughout their socials. Listen Now

Stave |

I probably wouldn’t have found this man if it weren’t for Stereofox, one of Australia’s largest music blogs. Every time he releases something they seem to jump right on to write about it. It certainly isn’t a surprise as his use of texture and ethnic instrumentation in his music is reminiscent to Bonobo or even Gold Panda. Out of all the artists covered here, he probably has the least amount of releases but, don’t let that fool you. Stave (aka Thabang Ramodipa) has the ability to enchant and put you into a meditative state through the kind of art he creates. Listen Now

Honeymoan |

It all started with murmurs. When I was speaking about music with strangers and friends on nights out, on different occasions I’d hear “so what do you think about Honeymoan?” Every time I’d hang my head in shame by virtue of my continued obliviousness towards their raw sound. Honeymoan is a 5 piece Shoegaze/Dream-pop/Psych-rock outfit influenced by artists such as Tame Impala, Slowdive and Beach House. With only two songs under their belt, they’ve amassed close to 500 000 Spotify streams and were featured on one of the most prestigious music blogs in the UK – The Line of Best Fit- for their track ‘We’. They’ve stated that the band is made up of members of other local bands such as Sakawa Boys, Dangerfields, Yndian Mynah and Wildernessking. If you would like to see them live, they actually will be performing their first ever show at the Raptor Room on the 26th of Jan. Listen Now

Infamous AJG |

If there is any local rapper that deserves to be on this list, it is definitely Infamous AFG (aka). In a world where Hip Hop is oversaturated with ‘Trap-lords’ and ‘Xanie boys’, it’s quite refreshing to hear a rapper who can ‘Trap out’ and RAP, not mumble, but really rap. He’s stated that one of his key influences is the late XXXTentacioun, even making a cover of one of his tracks called ‘Everybody Dies In Nightmares’. It’s clear AJG has quite a supportive fan base, particularly because he was voted to perform with one of the country’s biggest rappers… Nasty C. You’re welcome to have a listen to his mixtape titled “Trapped out Paradise” which has garnered over 25k streams. Listen Now


Years ago I came across Lapre, an Electronic duo based in Cape Town. When I found out it was Oracles (aka Benjamin McCarthy) who was behind their sensational ‘beats’, you would’ve sworn I had pitched a tent right next to my computer by virtue of the amount of time I spent camping on his Soundcloud page. The Cape Town native infuses elements of Hip-Hop, Chillout, Electronica and recently House into his production, plunging your senses into a world of vibrant colours. His last release in 2018 ‘Fast Cars & Shiny Mags’ mounted Apple Music’s Electronic A-List and made it to #1 position and within a matter of weeks, it was featured on French radio station Electro Pose. In a recent interview, he mentioned that he’s working on, and I quote “47892895749” tracks at the moment. We’re certainly excited to see which of those will be melting our hearts this coming year. Listen Now

Rose Bonica |

I remember seeing the words “Rose Bonica” on my feed one day and honestly, that’s how I found her music. That name exudes so much power and grace simultaneously, and that is exactly what you’ll find in Rose’s (aka Natalie) music. Her hard-hitting drums are ornamented with the most splendid pads and arps, creating a sound that is a beautiful oxymoron in itself. Bonica is affiliated with Wet Dreams Recordings and she has done quite a number of impressive things with the label in 2018. Her track ‘Keep Stealing Men’s Dreams’ sat on Breaking Electronic (an Apple Music playlist) for more a couple of months. In her catalogue, you’ll find a combination of Electronic elements such as House, a bit of Techno, and other aspects I can’t actually describe but can truly feel. Listen Now

Albany Lore |

Albany Lore is a Dream Pop project by Matthew Rightford, and damn… The live experience of this man will elevate you past cloud 9 and have you dining with angels. Okay, I may be over exaggerating although his combination of Dream Pop, Soul and Indie Rock is quite a treasure especially if you’re looking to chill out. After a lengthy hiatus, he returned with “Running Circles”, which was also featured on a South African Spotify list and after that release he’s been wowing audiences. Unknown too many he also has production credits in the projects of other artists such as Darkie Fiction, Thor Rixon and Yum Yuck for instance. It’s his lofty voice and moving saxophone abilities in his music that keep the crowd wanting more, hopefully, an EP or two in 2019. Listen Now

Parabyl |

This man is by far one of hardest working producers I’ve come across in Cape Town. In one year he’s released 3 different EP’s and was proactively gigging closer to the end of 2018. Entanglement EP, On the Beach with his band Three Witches and Stages of Grief is what you’ll find entangled in his catalogue (see what I did there). It’s also interesting to note that each project sounds like somebody else, thus exhibiting Parabyl’s (aka Ciaran Slemon) ability to diversify in his craft. The styles used in his tracks are generally associated with Trap/Wave/Electronica. You can catch his next set at Fiction’s Ice Cold on the 18th of Jan. Listen Now

Honourable Mention

Morena Leraba

So, this outfit isn’t really South African although they surely have surfboards the way they are making waves in the country. The majority of the members are from here and the lead vocalist is from Lesotho. At Kudukudu 004 I kept hearing “I’m so excited for Leraba”, I literally didn’t know who people were talking about. A couple of hours later, smoke inhabited the stage and a mystifying figure graciously appeared. I still didn’t know what was going on, and when they started performing I understood why the anticipation from the crowd was so real. And I also understood why there was demand for their performance in Festival Rituel 2 and Les Rencontres Trans Musicales (both France) and Eurosonic Noorderslag (Holland). Morena Leraba’s style is, well, I think I’d be making a fool of myself if I even tried to explain. But since I’m pretty good at doing that, you can expect to hear traditional African folk, Electronica, Ethnic Trance, Psych-rock and Hip Hop styles in their catalogue.

If there are any other artists you think we should be on the lookout for this year, let us know on the comment sections. Read more from Lu Makoboka right here

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