‘South African House’ by Kwaito Pioneer Doc Shebeleza‘South African House’ by Kwaito Pioneer Doc Shebeleza


‘South African House’ by Kwaito Pioneer Doc Shebeleza

Doc Shebeleza is a legend in the Kwaito genre, a style of music that erupted in the 90s in townships of Johannesburg, South Africa. His groundbreaking album S'Kumfete was released on cassette tape in 1996, unearthed and sampled by the likes of Timbaland and Charlie Heat.




September 29, 2022

Kwaito merges international influences from hip-hop, house, jazz, ragga, and percussive loops with local traditional styles. There are hints of the piano- and organ-driven style of marabi (1920s), the jazz-centered genre progression to that called kwela (1950s), mbaqanga (known as the township jive), and the poetry form of lmibongo. Doc Shebeleza’s music helped shape the kwaito genre, which earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award at 2018’s Mzansi Kwaito House Music Awards in South Africa.

His first release was the S'Kumfete cassette tape in 1996 on South African label Cool Spot. Six years prior, the label already spearheaded a kwaito sound by the then-unknown duo M-M Deluxe. “The members of the duo M-M Deluxe went on to pioneer and have massive kwaito success,” says Ken Haycock, co-founder of South African label Cool Spot in a 2020 interview with Tracklib. “Sadly, we were ahead of our time with M-M Deluxe. Doc Shebeleza was a member of the popular gospel and wedding group Platform One. It was exciting to be involved with Doc’s solo career and we had our first taste of kwaito success with him.”

Producers like Timbaland (for Papoose's "Thought I Was Gonna Stop") and Charlie Heat have sampled the kwaito music of Doc Shebeleza before. "Tracklib really came through on the samples for ‘2PC’ and ‘Dream’,” Charlie Heat said after sampling Doc Shebeleza’s “Ghets Ghetsa” on his song “Dream.” “Definitely a necessity for the album."

Despite false death rumors, Doc Shebeleza is still alive and well. Though he’s not planning to release new music since 2009’s Charma Boy, his albums like S'Kumfete tape and 1997’s follow-up Tiger live on via South African label Cool Spot.

The genre of kwaito also keeps evolving: the rising popularity of the genre of Amapiano this year builds off the South African genre spearheaded by Doc Shebeleza. Amapiano merges kwaito basslines with local deep house, traditional percussion, and soulful, jazz-influenced keys. Arguably, a song on Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind was even inspired by the South African genre… With Doc Shebeleza’s catalog, you get as close as possible to the heart of Johannesburg townships where it all originated from.

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