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‘It Speaks to an Ancient History’: Why South Africa Has the World’s Most Exciting Dance Music

Here’s a chance to get a history lesson and get your groove on. Thanks to the incredible diversity of cultures in South Africa (not called the Rainbow Nation for nothing), it’s no surprise that there’s a huge variety of musical traditions. What’s amazing, however, is how the country has consistently produced music that drives dance crazes. There’s afrohouse, brimming with emotion and tribal drums; gqom, with its edgy stripped-back rhythms; shangaan, a high speed, whimsical take on indigenous folk; amapiano, a slower paced hybrid of deep house, R&B and the earlier kwaito style; plus ever more splinters and hybrids, all rooted in the country’s Black communities. Pioneers like Vinny Da Vinci & DJ Christos, Glen Lewis, Tim White and Oskido intersected US house with local styles; economic limitations led to the birth of kwaito, where artists made their own tracks by slowing down house records and adding vocals in their own vernacular.