South African Artists You Shouldn’t Sleep On, Third Edition

This is an article series where I cover independent songs and artists who I believe are releasing great stuff and have amazing potential. At the end of each of these articles there’ll be curated playlists with the featured artists’ music and other hidden gems. Without further ado, this is the Third Edition. You can read on the first and second edition here and here.

Tron Pyre

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Basic Info: Ndumiso Phiri is a 22-year old BComm student hailing from Pretoria, who goes by the name Tron Pyre. Tron Pyre is a singer-songwriter whose style of music explores and mashes multiple genres across the blues spectrum, with strong references to jazz, neo-soul and chamber pop. Thus far, he has released three bodies of work; Burgundy, Phases and his latest tape Pangea.

Recommendation: Moments Pt. 1. Tron Pyre is a deft storyteller and a killer vocalist. One of the most fascinating things about Pyre’s music is how it consistently abandons contemporary sensibilities on pop (read popular) music structure with great intent and effect. He fully throws himself into the emotions and themes he’s trying to portray from the composition to the lyrics and vocal performance and there’s a sense of consideration to all of the elements and how they play with each other. This is something I’d love to explore more in its own article but for now I’ll stick to my favourite song, Moments Pt. 1. On Moments Pt. 1 he sets his sight on infatuation with all its quirks and earnestness. The instrumentation does a fantastic job in setting the romance as it constantly builds in subtle ways. There’s a certain awkwardness and vulnerability he encompasses with his vocal choices that reads like there’s no filter, like he’s talking directly to his love interest. The lack of a discernible chorus only adds to this aesthetic. The song is an incredible sweet journey that wouldn’t fill out of place as a soundtrack in romance films.

TSA

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Basic Info: Our next artist was born and raised in Johannesburg. TSA, born Zolile Mcelu, is a full time 26-year old independent hip-hop artist with a discography that dates back to 2012. His style of music explores a lot of facets within the realms of classic hip-hop whilst pulling influences from other rhythmic genres like funk and trap. His bodies of work include mixtapes such as Finger Snacks and The Zxne.

Recommendation: Ten Fold. Braggadoccio has long been one of the main tenants surrounding hip-hop culture and one that TSA understands and inhabits a lot. His music is heavily centered around themes of his independence and how content he is with it and no song expresses this as pointedly as Ten Fold. Itsjustabasic’s production lays a canvas that begs for hard bars which TSA and his crew deliver ‘tenfold’. TSA provides his most playful chorus before he, ByLwansta and Spoek Mathambo take aim at online celebrities and naysayers whilst celebrating the value of their independence. The song finds everyone involved bringing their best providing hard bars and indelible hooks.

Mikhale Jones

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Basic Info: Mikhale Jones is a 22-year old entertainer that’s based in the West Rand. Multi-talented, she’s an active singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar and keyboard. She’s gained an active YouTube following as a musician and her cover of Tory Lanez’s Say It has garnered over a million streams. She released her debut EP, Confidently Lost, last November and has since been touring as a member of XOXO, a vocal group consisting herself, Tamara Dey and Mariechan.

Recommendation: Instant. Mikhale Jones is a pop star in the making armed with more than just a killer voice, but the ability to really sell the story of the song as well. Instant is a breezy song that finds her calling out her cheating boyfriend and the mindset that makes him feel comfortable in doing so. Musically, the song is very reminiscent of the sounds female acoustic R&B inhabited in the mid-2000’s, and vocally she attacks the song with those same sensibilities. Her verse and bridge section, lyrically and vocally, act as a canvas for her to paint her frustrations, which she brings a great level of intensity and drama to her delivery. These frustrations culminate in a dejected Jones within the chorus. Her verses are a great showcase of how Jones is one of the most vocally capable singers on the net.

Bougie Pantsula

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Basic Info: Bougie Pantsula is a rapper/producer duo consisting of Njabulo Mpanza (Jabba) and Buni Bogopa (Matt Ryan). Their name speaks to their lived-in duality and code-switching of growing up in a township environment whilst going to Model C schools, a topic greatly covered in this article here.  Their style of music really explores the depths of hip-hop and kwaito with influences from house and dance music. They dropped their first tape aptly titled Demo in April 2018.

Recommendation: Ungajumpisi. Historically, the duo dynamic between a producer and rapper when done right has lead to some of the most iconic work in the realms of hip-hop; Rakim, Will Smith and Macklemore are some of the biggest products following that blueprint. Jabba shares a common trait with them that’s a key component to his magneticism as a rapper, killer charisma. Jabba has an incredibly conversational approach to his bars that can make his audience feel like he’s their personal hype-man and close friend and Ungajumpisi is a great showcase of this. Ungajumpisi is a feel-good banger. Matt Ryan provides one of his finest summer-ready productions whilst Jabba courts a girl to spend some more time with him. The concept is really simple and that’s where the fun of it is and it allows Jabba to really show off his charm. The song grows on you with every listen and is primed to be one of my favorites for this summer.

Malachi

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Basic Info: Coming from Pretoria is one of the youngest artists I’ve covered in this series, 18-year old Malachi. Malachi’s musical output explores the depths of urban contemporary music, from trap and R&B all the way to hip-hop and reggaeton. He has released a string of songs over the past year that’s culminated on the release of his first EP The Book of Malachi in August 2018.

Recommendation: Let You Know. Malachi is an incredibly savvy student of contemporary music. His understanding of contemporary structure and how best to utilise it, is one of his greatest skills as he’s able to consistently deliver infectious radio-ready songs. A great deal of his discography leans towards trap but some of his best work comes when he experiments outside those folds. Musically, Let You Know revisits early 2000’s R&B with subtle funk references from the 80’s (think Usher’s 8701) with a production that builds upon that era in exciting ways. Lyrically, the song explores Malachi’s exasperation with his love interest’s paranoia of his loyalty, and his vocals deliver on that story. The chorus is one of his best constructed and its an all around great song with the potential of being a crossover smash.

Hidden Gems

The remaining artists on the playlist include musicians who we’ve covered before like That Ego and Yuang as well as other tracks from other trailblazers with upcoming releases who we’d like to cover in the future like Elizee, ThandoNje and Nirvana Nokwe. My personal favourite tracks despite the one’s previously highlighted are Iindirhe’s Hold Me, Nirvana Nokwe’s Chiron and Elizee’s Feel A Way. Enjoy.

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