In 1897, Enoch Sontonga, then a teacher,
composed the hymn
Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless
Africa), which was later adopted by the liberation
movement and later became the first part of the
national anthem of a
democratic South Africa.
The missionary influence, plus the later
influence of American spirituals, spurred a gospel
movement that is still very strong in South Africa
today. Drawing on the traditions of churches such as
the Zion Christian Church, one of the largest such
groupings in Africa, it has exponents whose styles
range from the more traditional to the pop-infused
sounds of, for instance, the former pop singer
Rebecca Malope. Gospel, in its many forms, is one of
the bestselling genres in South Africa today, with
artists who regularly achieve sales of gold and
The missionary emphasis on choirs, combined with
the traditional vocal music of South Africa, and
taking in other elements as well, also gave rise to
a mode of a capella singing that blend the style of
Western hymns with indigenous harmonies.
This tradition is still alive today in the
isicathamiya form, of which
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
are the foremost and most famous exponents.
The all-in-one official guide and web portal to South Africa.
This vocal music is the oldest
traditional music known in South Africa. It
was communal, accompanying dances or other
social gatherings, and involved elaborate
Though some instruments such as the mouth
bow were used, drums were relatively
unknown. Later, instruments used in areas to
the north of what is now South Africa, such
as the mbira or thumb-piano from Zimbabwe,
or drums or xylophones from Mozambique,
began to find a place in the traditions of
South African music-making.
Still later, Western instruments such as
the concertina or the guitar were integrated
into indigenous musical styles,
contributing, for instance, to the Zulu mode
of maskanda music.
The development of a black urban
proletariat and the movement of many black
workers to the mines in the 1800s meant that
differing regional traditional folk music
met and began to flow into one another.
Western instrumentation was used to adapt
rural songs, which in turn started to
influence the development of new hybrid
modes of music-making (as well as dances) in
the developing urban centres.