Top kwaito songs of the ’90s

South African kwaito group Trompies. Photo: Matthews Baloyi

South African music would be incomplete, and quite boring, without kwaito. The genre has been influential in shaping urban culture in South Africa’s sprawling cities and beyond; the genre is even played in the US and Europe, where its retro appeal has diverse audiences dancing to its infectious beats.

Even the current popularity of gqom can be credited to kwaito, which was the preferred choice of music in the 1990s and through the 2000s, when the genre became a force to be reckoned with and eventually transcended racial boundaries through artist like the late Mandoza.

To pay homage to this incredible genre, we have put together a list of our favourite kwaito tunes from the1990s – the era of the born-frees, Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, and the first ever democratic elections.

‘Phansi Ngey’thupha’ by Mashamplani (1995)

‘Phansi Ngey’thupha’ set the country ablaze with the use of township lingo and earned Mashamplani a household name. The song became a favourite among the Ndebele neighbouring people in Zimbabwe.

‘Why’ by Aba Shante (1996)

‘Why’ is among the 1990s songs that set the bar high for kwaito music. The song was recorded by the now defunct kwaito group Aba Shante, which comprised lead singer Queen ‘Iyaya’ Sesoko, Zanele ‘Nestum’ Nyakale, Tebogo ‘Zombo’ Ndlovu, Hazel Mzolo and the late Abel ‘Aba’ Golepe. Back then, most kwaito fans copied Aba Shanté’s dress sense and hairstyles.

‘Intwenjani’ by Mawillies (1997)

‘Intwenjani’ became a popular hit in most townships and topped the local radio chats. Featuring powerful bass and beats, the song still finds its way at many local township parties and remains one of Mawillies’ best songs.

‘Sweety Lavo’ by Trompies (1998)

‘Sweety Lavo’ is a popular love song by kwaito legends Trompies. The song dominated the airwaves and was favourite at township weddings and street bashes.

‘Shibobo’ by TKZee (1997)

‘Shibobo’, which borrows the keyboard line from Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’, was released in the run-up to the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. The song features the vocals of ex-Bafana Bafana striker Benni McCarthy who also appears in the football-themed music video for the song. 

‘It’s About Time’ by Boom Shaka (1993)

‘It’s About Time’ is a fusion of kwaito and rapping. Boom Shaka set the standard high on this song with lead singer Queen Sesoko exhibiting her powerful rapping skills. Continue reading…

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