The 10 Best South African Electronic Artists, according to Toya Delazy
"If this bop is not on your playlist you are missing out..."
Five years ago, Toya Delazy made the decision to leave her record deal with Sony Music and carve out her own path as an independent artist. It marked a change in trajectory that would see the South African step back from the eclectic pop sound that had characterised her first two albums and move towards a completely new sonic field, pioneering the exciting AfroRave genre. Fast forward to the present day and Toya’s boundary breaking blend of Zulu verses with drum and bass has positioned her as one of the most unique figures in the electronic scene, celebrating the lyricism of her native tongue while delivering high-energy dance-floor heaters.
Unable to play to live audiences through lockdown, the London-based musician dedicated a lot of time to her forthcoming third album, titled ‘Afrorave Vol. 1’. Embedded with references to her South African heritage, the record is set to reveal the full extent of Toya’s new creative vision and explores themes such as mental health in the black community, the pursuit of money and cultural pride. Thinking about some of South Africa’s most notable electronic artists over the years; the singer, producer and rapper tells us ten of her favourites, as well as unpacking some of their greatest anthems.
1. MXSHI MO – ‘Woza’
“One of my favourite producers coming up world wide, Mxshi Mo is from Pietermaritzburg South Africa and the way he blends gqom and electro into rave anthems is Godly – Woza shows his prowess in blending gqom and tech and is sure to set any groove off on a high note.”
2. Unticipated Soundz – ‘Wee Jesu’
“I discovered these guys on instagram ( Dankie Linda majola) and just loved how hard and heavily the benevolent fruity kick pummels the beat and how the distorted bass engulfed my ears – you can’t help but wanna squeak takkie bruhhh! like this song makes me wanna pull faces I didn’t know I was capable of, it’s a dirty boss beat. The calm zulu vocals are also complementary to the entire movement of the beat and bring a sort of ice cold koolness to the chaos.”
3. Lemon and herb feat. LJ Pepper – ‘Edge’
“The Ghadz of Afrotech! I love how they pieced this euphoric masterpiece together with the layered dreamy piano, chords and bassline which pulls you out of any dullness you may be feeling. These guys have been making their mark in the Afrotech scene and they didn’t come to horse about, the music speaks right to the heart and is a perfect blend of tech and Africa, Get familiar yo!”
4. Caltonic SA – ‘Like Virgo Deep’
“Caltonic SA came through on this joint! packed with filthy drops including the brummp of the famous gqom log drum cutting through the beat like a hot knife through butter – it’s gqom tech heaven yo! The pitched guiro also adds a fine spice to the percussion and the distorted pitching makes you wanna get lost in the melodic sauce and leave bottles tumbling from the waviness. The track is flavour all round and super creative – hits the chest like a rubber bullet.”
5. Mdu aka TRP – ’16 Inch (Dance Mix)’
“First time I heard this joint, Uncle Vinny, South Africa’s jiggiest MC was throwing down some mad moves. This song is a set up, whether you wanna dance or not your hips will not lie when the baselines chop. The hypnotic piano stabs turn this joint into a joy ride of steeze which is amplified by the soft piano bridge making way for the anticipated log drum drop. The cheeky school bell before the drop tells you what time it is, pull your mates onto the dance floor and show flames.”
6. Worst Behaviour feat. DJ LAG, Gento Bareto and various artists – ‘Samba Ngoline’
“When this song drops everyone grabs a bottle of Savanna and places it on any available space on the body, somewhere it won’t fall, most go for placing it on the head and the hype is all in balancing the bottle while walking in a line. The kick is like a cattle whip making sure everyone keeps the pace and the repeated “samba ngo line” (meaning we are walking in a line) sentence accompanies the 2 step bounce dance with arms stretched out in a step trance. The flow from okmalumkoolkat sets the joint off to a stop nonsense start, followed by Gento Bareto’s word play which just hits the spot and complements the groove so well. Dj Tira also drops his famous rowdy catchy flows reminding us it’s not all that serious, always there to keep it fun.”
7. Aymos & Focalistic – ‘Jemeni’
“There is no doubt that Aymos with his signature sultry zulu vocals, and witty wordplay, has made his international mark. The lad is impressive, coupled with Focalistic who gave us amapiano anthem “Ke Star ” we are set up for another blast of SA electronic amapiano heaven. The log drum accompanying focalistics verse unapologetically bashes it’s way into the rest of the song leading the way like moses parting the red sea to the kold flows and melodic harmonies from the pair. It’s everything you want delivered! You can’t help but sing along to Jemeni, why Jemini ? the genius that is Aymos uses it as a metaphor and compares his quality to the quality of german cars.. why? because seducing the listener with his voice, word play and honesty is what Aymos does best and we are here for it.”
8. DBN Gogo – ‘Khuza Gogo’
“If this bop is not on your playlist you are missing out, everyone who’s anyone has been screaming the hook of this bop while pulling faces and the coldest shoulder pop lean back on some matrix flair. Nah this beat is cold! Love how the vocals touch on african spirituality too. The shaker and kick are a running theme in amapiano and keep the beat heaving yet building up to the log drum drop and the anthemic hook “Khuza Gogo Khuza” meaning reprimand them grandma reprimand! – Gogo in isizulu culture also refers to an traditional healer initiate as they say when you have the calling of your ancestors uhamba nabadala meaning you are being accompanied on earth by your elders ancestors, so the girls are called Gogo (grandma) and the boys Mkhulu (grandpa) .. I’m still shocked that the guy singing is a bloke, his voice is so lushh.”
9. Griffit Vigo – ‘Ree’s Vibe’
“These are the Durbanites! the originators of Gqom you can feel it, this song begins with a very industrial like tapping, a cyborg rattling kick clattering ahead then joined by the djembe and shakers which build up to the shimmery drum solo drop, just when you think it’s over it shatters on featuring a lot of indigenous instruments, you feel like you are in a jungle of mechanics tapping everything on sight in the garage. Issa a vibe !”
10. Omagoqa – ‘Gquom 808’
“These guys are setting off a festival here, this joint is 2021 freshly baked – The 808 is the heavy mother goose of the rave pond, together with the grazing log drum building up to a sinister pause at the zenith and then dropping into a bassline that could fix rickets, seriously, you wanna pump this joint and make sure you got your whistle with you as you will hear the classic SA style whistling dabbing through out the joint further stirring the hysteria. SA electronic music is the most exciting thing out there.”