The rest of Africa, they disregarded me. Outsiders understood me, and they hooked me up”. These are the words of DJ Mujava talking about his international success in the third installment of Spoek Mathambo’s documentary, Future Sound of Mzansi. He travelled all over Europe and Australia in 2009 for his song “Township Funk“. South Africa didn’t realise how big a hit “Township Funk” was until Mujava started achieving international success and recognition for it.
South Africa’s house music scene is one of the largest in the world and our hip hop scene is the biggest it’s ever been. But for artists who don’t belong in these categories – who are considered “not mainstream enough” – it seems near impossible for them to break into the local market and have a sustainable career. Some of these artists end up becoming superstars overseas and then “blow up” in South Africa almost by default.
The list on the next page showcases six South African musicians and bands that are more well-known overseas than at home:
1. John Wizards
John Wizards is a six-piece band from Cape Town created in 2010 by vocalist and guitarist, John Withers. The other members of the band are Raphael Segerman (drummer and percussionist), Jean Thierry Nzaramba (vocals), Geoffrey Brink (guitarist and keyboardist), Alex Montgomery (bassist and keyboardist) and guitarist Thomas Parker.
Their eclectic sound can be described as a fusion of reggae, afro pop, house and jazz. Their first album, John Wizards was released in 2013 and was voted eighth on The Guardian UK’s Top 10 Albums of the Year for 2013.
Internationally they’ve performed at Glastonbury (one of Europe’s biggest music festivals), Primavera in Barcelona, Midi Festival in France, Melt festival in Germany and Pukkelpop in Belgium. They were also featured on the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans of 2014. Locally, they made their debut at Rocking the Daisies last year and played at the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (CTEMF) this year.