South Africa: new artists 2021

As tough as this past year was, it has seen a rise of new artists create a space for their art. South Africa is no stranger to this, steadily becoming a renowned country for upcoming talent. We took a look at 10 musicians we believe are ones to watch based on style, sound and originality.

1. Sha Sha

Charmaine Shamiso Mpambiro, who goes by the stage name Sha Sha is a Zimbabwean-born singer. The queen of the Southern African afro-pop genre called Amapiano. Signed to DJ Maphorisa’s label Blaqboy Music in 2018 and has been churning out hits ever since. Having worked with Samthing Soweto on “Akulaleki”, Mlindo The Vocalist on “Nge Thanda Wena” and Scorpion Kings “We Mama”, Sha Sha has gained international acclaim for her talent.

Sha Sha has been nominated for several awards such as the Record of The Year, Best Collaboration, and Best of Africa in the South African Music Awards. And eventually won the Best New International Act at the BET Awards. With her new record Woza, Sha Sha is sure to make waves in the industry this year – mark it.

2. Boohle

Staying on the Yanos (Amapiano) genre, we have Boohle. The hit song Mama has more than 320 600 streams on Spotify. Her fans on Twitter have referred to her music as a healing experience, channeling honesty in her lyrics, accompanied by a dancy Yanos beat.

Boohle’s 10-track album ‘Umbuso Waba’mnyama‘, made in collaboration with Josiah De Disciple, was released in 2020. It featured the likes of Le Sax, Chelete, and Mogomotsi Chosen. Via her social media platforms, Boohle gives her supporters a look into her creative process, sharing images from previous live shows and clips of her studio sessions with her creative team. We look forward to the moves she’ll be making this year.

3. ByLwansta

Lwandile Dominic Nkanyuza, known by his moniker ByLwansta, is a 25-year-old South African creative from the small town that is Kokstat. With his fingers in multiple artistic pies such as record production, art direction, graphic design, and rap music, ByLwansta has been in the game for a while, learning new skills along the way.

Earning himself a listing on OkayAfrica’s “The 15 Best South African Hip-Hop Albums of 2016”, Texx And The City’s “Top 20 Albums & EPs of 2016”, the cover of Hype Magazine’s Freshman Edition, and a COLORS Show performance, SAMA Award nominee ByLwansta is beyond the come-up phase of every creative’s journey. More of his work can be found on the website for his creative agency NORMVL along will all his social media links.

4. Dali Khanyile

Professionally known as Dali in the music world, Dali Khanyile is a musician from Kwa-Mashu. His latest release is an R&B / Melodic Rap EP called Alpha released in February of 2020. In an interview with GQ South Africa, Dali expressed that his EP was inspired by the events that had occurred in his life during his varsity years, which was also when his musical journey began. Pushing a message of staying true to self regardless of what goes on in life, Dali’s EP Alpha was a ballsy first offering and we can’t wait to hear more, keeping an eye on his Instagram for more updates.

5. Azana

Durban is really showing out as it has been the birthplace of several artists on this list, one of them being Azana. Named Makhosazana Princess Masango at birth, Azana is a singer, songwriter, and performer. She first caught the attention of the people when she featured as a vocalist on Sun-El Musician’s hit single “Uhuru” and has since released her first solo album Ingoma. With a mixture of jazz, African melodies, and Western pop, her singing style has been influenced by legends such as Simpiwe Dana, Erykah Badu, Letta Mbulu, and Nina Simone. Her commercial acclaim has earned her tons of radio and TV airplay, making her a voice that echoes through many an African household.

6. William Last KRM

Botswana’s gem, comedian & rapper William Last KRM has had immense success in the last year. From his debut album Willian, the visuals for his lead single ‘Tinto‘ went viral in the social media streets getting almost 1.5 million views on YouTube in just 2 months. In his album, he explores the thriving 90’s “hood” nostalgia (bopantsola), from the fashion choices in the visuals to the sprinkles of other African slang in his lyrics. Hard at work, independently, for the last couple of years, Willian is a legend in the making.

7. Refi Sings

A recording artist since the age of 14, Refilwe “Refi Sings” Morake was born in South Africa and raised in Los Angeles. She has recently released an 8-track EP titled 7even Days, blessing us with her sultry voice, provocative lyrics, and pure sass. Refi Sings has worked with the likes of Priddy Ugly, Anderson Paak, Focus, Andra Day, Hanz Zimmer, and the late Hugh Masekela at the 55th Grammy Awards as part of the vocal arrangement. Her live performances are magical – her rasp and range sound like she smoked a pack of Stuyvesant Red, drank an entire bottle of bourbon, and jumped on stage taking her feelings with her. The power!! Being the youngest South African to perform at Coachella, Refi Sings has been making history and is said to make more.

8. Shekhinah

The bald-headed beauty Shekhinah Thandi Donnell, known as Shekhinah is another one of our Durban-born creatives. Since her debut album Rose Gold certified platinum in 2018, she went on to be nominated for a whole bunch of awards, winning the Newcomer of The Year, Female Artist of the Year, and Album of the Year at the South African Music Awards. She also went on to win Best Female Artist in Southern Africa and Songwriter of the Year at the All Africa Music Awards. It is possible that we may be getting a new album this year as, not so long ago, Shekhinah released the visuals for her new single called ‘Tides’ and it goes in.

9. Roho

Alt-R&B artist Roho returned with an EP titled Ephemeral , an ode to a very transformative period in his life, after taking a few years off to recalibrate. Speaking with Jade Kelly on the Breakroom Africa, he said that this project took him 3 years to make due to the fact that was not spiritually sound and not as aligned as he would have liked to be. Getting in touch and re-aligning with his ancestors brought him to a place of clarity and it shows in his music. His minimalist approach to his music and social media is fascinating because, upon listening to his latest project, the question remains – what will he be doing next?

10. Nipho Hurd

Influenced by her traditional roots and secular upbringing, Nhlakanipho Lungelo Khanyile – professionally known as Nipho Hurd – has a one-of-a-kind sound. Known for bringing soul music to new heights, the singer/songwriter fuses funk, jazz, afro-soul, house, and blues in her music Born in Emsingana and raised by traditional healers, Nipho Hurd ensures that her music is the embodiment of that energy – vivacious and raw, as is. Years after she toured Durban performing live, Nipho Hurd released her EP The Ghel. Standing her ground in her sound, she is taking her gift to the Virtual National Arts Festival with guest poet Philani Kunene in the coming weeks.