How South Africa became the center of the house music world

Story highlights

South Africa has the biggest house music market per capita anywhere in the world

African Voices explores the genres and artists that influenced the current stock of dancfloor fillers

CNN  — 

It may have started in “The Warehouse” club, Chicago, but the center of the house music world has relocated.

But not to Ibiza. Miami? Not even close. Today the biggest house market per capita anywhere in the world is South Africa.

Home-grown acts such as Black Coffee and Euphonix are world renowned, following a path opened up by the likes of ground-breaking vocalist Lebo Mathosa in the 90s. In November three-year-old DJ Archer Jnr claimed top prize on variety show South Africa’s Got Talent, showing just how embedded the genre is into popular culture.

But how did South Africa get to this point? We take a look at the journey towards cultural dominance, and the influences house music has picked up along the way.

See more musicians on this week’s African Voices, featuring Cobhams Asuquo and Bongeziwe Mabandla


Is there anything more euphoric than a trumpet on a house record? Many a track’s breakdown is indebted to jazz, and in South Africa there’s no bigger name than Hugh Masekela.

An iron-lunged legend of the scene, Masekela has been active since the fifties, primarily playing in jazz ensembles, but rose to prominence in the sixties and seventies with crossover hits such as “Up, Up and Away” and “Grazing in the Grass,” which sold over four million copies.

One of the brains behind Zaire 74, the celebrated music festival organized to coincide with the “Rumble in the Jungle,” Masakela went on to record protest song “Bring Him Back Home” in 1986, alluding to Nelson Mandela and an anthem for the anti-apartheid movement.

A figure with astounding longevity, Masekela is still performing and moving with the times, collaborating with Black Coffee on his 2010 album “Home Brewed.”


Ladysmith Black Mambazo were introduced to the world via Paul Simon’s 1986 album “Graceland,” and the male choral group from Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal have gone on to become one of the nation’s most famed groups.