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From world-renowned to locally dominant, these are Cape Town’s party rocking songs
Last updated: 4 March 2020
Cape Town is a hotbed of musical styles and home to a plethora of musicians from various genres. From hip-hop to jazz, anti-apartheid anthems, Afro-pop and the “zef” movement that’s taken the world by storm, our city’s artists have had a fair share of hit songs. Here is a playlist of 22 of our favourite Cape Town hits to play at your next party.
FROM QUIET TO MAYHEM
It starts off so peacefully: a lilting guitar motif, jazzy trumpet melody, and lyrics about perfect skies… then suddenly guitarist Theo Crous scratches out some palm mutes and breaks into a menacing riff while frontman Arno Carsten breaks into a scream and the chorus crashes to life. Bubblegum On My Boots was released in 1995 on The Springbok Nude Girls’ debut album, Neanderthal 1. They skyrocketed to fame, going from small gigs in their home town of Stellenbosch to headlining national stages in no time, and Bubblegum On My Boots quickly became a staple showstopper at their live shows. The song was one of the main reasons the band was voted SA’s best rock band by 5FM listeners in 2004. It’s a lot of fun to sing along to, and its high octane chorus will take any party from quiet to mayhem.
AN NYE KLOPSE CLASSIC
Funny Carp have made some, well, colourful songs with titles such as Jy Vang Net Kak Aan and Almal Is Vrek, but your party playlist essential tune is their festive classic, Ons Is Lekker Almal Van Die Kaap. The lyrics mix English and Afrikaans in classic Cape Town style, with cheeky plays on words, like in the line “hulle het my nou ge-fax deur die sex machine”. It’s a play on the term “naai masjien”, which means “sewing machine”, but has a double meaning. The track has an energetic ghoema backing track reminiscent of Tweede Nuwe Jaar klopse tunes and a patriotic chorus line that will have you singing and dancing along, even after multiple listens.
IT GOT MORE AIRPLAY THAN A CARTOON KID
We’re not sure which came first, the cartoon character or the local slang for young male lovers. But we do know that Early B’s mega-hit, Ben 10, got more radio airplay than the cartoon series has episodes. The rapper was already a Ghoema Award winner before the song dropped. This track dominated the charts and broke local streaming records, catapulting Early B to stardom and making him a household name.
THE LOOP MASTER’S FIRST HIT
These days, Jeremy Loops headlines festivals and does US and European tours, but it all started with a song released in 2014. Down South is a feel-good fusion of folk, rock, hip hop and African rhythms, featuring rapper Motheo Moleko. It skyrocketed to number one on the Top 40 charts of radio stations across the country. The Kommetjie-born musician has released a string of hits since then, but it’s always good to remember what made him a superstar in the first place.
A COLLABORATION OF WINNERS
2017 was a great year for Cape Town singers as Paxton Fielies won Idols SA and Craig Lucas won The Voice SA. The pair got together to collaborate on a moody ballad, Smother. Lucas penned the lyrics, in which a love-crazed protagonist begs an unnamed someone to “go ahead and smother me now”. The collaboration got a lot of hype, so the song was an instant hit. By December 2019 it had achieved gold status in unit sales, cementing its status as one of the smash hits of the year.
A NUMBER ONE HIT FOR CAPE TOWN’S NUMBER ONE HOUSE ACT
GoldFish hit instant international fame with their 2006 debut album Caught In The Loop. It gave them the platform to open for major acts like Fatboy Slim, Basement Jaxx, Faithless, and Paul Van Dyk. They’ve ridden that wave to become one of South Africa’s biggest musical exports and their 2012 hit Washing Over Me is testament to that. The song hit number 1 on 5FM in 2012 and was used in the Nike+ ad campaign and the advert for the Castle Lager Incoming Series that year. The upbeat tune has all the jazz, pop, and house elements that make up the band’s signature sound.
BIG, BIGGER, MASSIVE HIT
From its quirky intro to the comedic delivery of the lyrics, Dames by Biggy should be little more than a parody. It surprised us all when it garnered over five million views on Youtube, and took over local radio airwaves. The winning formula was simple: the music is danceable, the theme about a guy striking out with women is relatable, and the chorus is catchy and easy to sing. All together now, “Dames, sê my wat jou naam is...”
THE SOUND OF DISTRICT SIX
The late and great Taliep Pietersen loved his home city so much that he penned Klop Klop (The Heart Of District Six) for his first stage collaboration with David Kramer, District Six: The Musical. It’s a jaunty ghoema tune that pays homage to Tweede Nuwe Jaar celebrations. Besides being one of the most recognised songs in District Six: The Musical, it also forms part of many Cape radio stations’ midnight playlists on New Year’s Eve.
PUTTING THE NORTHERN SUBURBS ON THE MAP
The Northern Suburbs is better known for its rock and heavy metal music culture, but over the past decade, artists like Jack Parow have made a name for the area in rap. Jack Parow is as Northern-Suburbs as it gets, born in Parow and raised in Durbanville, and he shot the hilarious 2010 video for the hit song Cooler As Ekke outside Bellville’s drive-in Burger Fair. The catchy chorus and outcast theme gave Parow his first major radio hit.
A CLASSIC TRACK BY CAPE JAZZ LEGENDS
Instantly recognisable by it’s opening chords, Mannenberg is an instrumental classic by the jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim. It is named after the coloured township of the Western Cape, Manenberg. The upbeat tune was composed and recorded in 1974 with other Cape Jazz stars Basil Coetzee and Robbie Jansen. Legend has it that Coetzee got his nickname, “Manenberg“, because of the saxophone solo he played on the track.
THAT UNFORGETTABLE EARWORM
Freshlyground is on an extended break following their magical final show at Kirstenbosch on New Year’s Eve 2019. While we’ll miss seeing them headlining stages all over the country, we’ll always have their feel-good anthem, Doo Be Doo, to remind us of those golden days. It came off their second album, Nomvula, in 2004, and is all about unity and love. Their folksy, Afro-fusion, pop, and world-music style gained them world recognition, and the album soared to double platinum status.
CAPE TOWN’S WORLDWIDE MEGA HIT
Die Antwoord, made up of the duo Yol-andi Vi$$er and Ninja, have garnered worldwide attention for their provocative work over the past decade. They’ve worked with the queen of burlesque, Dita Von Teese, and had a cameo appearance by Marilyn Manson in one of their videos. But 2009’s Enter the Ninja was the song that led to their viral, almost overnight fame. The tune was the window that let people into their brand of punky, ravey, and infectious hip-hop accompanied by freaky, mind-bending music videos. It also infected the world with the “zef” lifestyle embraced by some of Cape Town’s youth.
A SONG TO INSPIRE A NATION
Hanover Park’s Vicky Sampson became a household name when she belted out My African Dream at the opening ceremony of the 1996 African Cup of Nations, which South Africa won. The powerful and inspirational ballad highlighted the positive climate of the time, hitting a sweet note about ushering in our “new tomorrow”. The song became a theme for change and aspiration of our nation, and was also used in several promo videos and ad campaigns.
LET THE PAST STAY IN THE PAST
You can’t speak of hip-hop without saluting Prophets of Da City, the Cape Town conscious rap group founded in the 80s, when their politically charged lyrics were a fist raised against the establishment. The jubilant and celebratory Never Again, released in 1994, applauds South Africa – “Excellent, finally a black President!” – specifically, those individuals who fought against apartheid.
A JUKEBOX FAVOURITE BY AN AFROPOP LEGEND
The Xhosa crooner Ringo Madlingozi, from Gugulethu, shot to fame as a member of the band Peto when they won the Shell Road To Fame competition in 1986. He has been a mainstay in the afro-pop scene ever since and released Sondela in 1997, shortly after he won the Best Male Artist award at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs). Although music has taken a backseat since he was sworn in as a member of parliament, this vocally driven, soulful song is still a popular jukebox favourite.
A SONG FOR DATE NIGHT
Pluto (Remember You) is a house track by the Gauteng based DJ Clock. It features Cape Town-based trio, Beatenberg, who drive the song with their instrumental work, giving it the soul and rhythm that made it South Africa’s number one song for 19 weeks in 2014. The video also showcases the beauty of the city’s beaches and neighbourhoods while giving Capetonians the satisfying kick of spotting familiar sights. Signal Hill and Chapman’s Peak make appearances and there’s even a cameo by the local favourite bar and restaurant, Yours Truly.
THE AFRIKAANS SONG THAT GATECRASHED ENGLISH RADIO
Fokofpolisiekar were the first band of their kind on South Africa: post-apartheid, angsty rock that gave a voice to white kids stifled by Afrikaans conservatism. Hemel Op Die Platteland was one of the first singles from their 2003 debut album, As Jy Met Vuur Speel Sal Jy Brand. It also became the first Afrikaans song to be playlisted on 5FM.
GRAMMY NOMINATED CAPE TOWN HIT
Born and bred in Athlone, Jonathan Butler is of the Mother City’s finest musical exports. He was singing and playing guitar by seven and made history as one of the first coloured artists to be played on white segregated radio stations. Lies, his 1987 hit single, blends jazz and RnB, and was nominated for a Grammy in 1987. He played the soulful, upbeat song, about a man who discovers his wife was cheating on him, to end his set at his homecoming show at the 2019 Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
IT’S YOUNG, NOT JAN
Youngsta CPT dominated at the 2019 South African Hip Hop Awards picking up two awards: Album of The Year for his album 3T; and Video of the Year for the song YVR. The winning song is a moody track with a strong baseline and up-tempo lyrical flow that sets the tone for the album, which marked Youngsta’s rise from mixtape rapper to album artist. The song also continues YoungstaCPT’s crusade to educate youth about history and its effect on modern Cape Town.
RAW, HUSKY AND REAL
The gravel-voiced songstress Auriol Hayes made an impact with the upbeat 2009 hit Take It Slow, the first single off her debut album, Behind Closed Doors. When watching the accomplished vocals on this raw acoustic version of the song, you wouldn’t believe that for years the spunky Hays lacked the confidence to share her vocal talent, even with her closest family. The songstress, who lived everywhere from Mitchells Plain to Eerste River growing up, has released five more albums since.
AN ODE TO THE BEAUTY OF OUR CITY
Koos Kombuis’ poetic Afrikaans song, Lisa Se Klavier, is a song about a woman who plays the piano in the dark of the Cape Town night, and everyone stops to listen. The lyrics reference Table Mountain and Orange Street, and there’s a line about “Cape Town in the night, the little lights and the black, black sea”. Kombuis spent his youth in many of the Western Cape’s small towns before moving to the city as a youngster. He was one of the founding members of the Voëlvry, an anti-apartheid collective of musicians who toured South African university campuses in the rocky 1980s. This poignant classic off his 1990 album, Niemandsland and Beyond, has since been covered by many others, including the Parlotones.
FROM ONE ICON TO ANOTHER
South Africa’s Queen of Pop, the Madonna of the Townships, MaBrrr may have moved to Johannesburg to pursue her career, but she was born right here, in Langa. When Brenda Fassie died, about 10,000 people attended her funeral at Langa Stadium. Black President, released in 1990, is about another local icon, who was sent to prison a year after she was born: former president Nelson Mandela.
Be in the front row when Cape Town’s next big hit is discovered at these live music venues.
See South Africa’s top performers share the stage with tomorrow’s stars at one of Cape Town’s many music festivals.
Find out everything you need to know about Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
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