There’s an old Mitch Hedberg joke: “I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I'm gonna put pins into all the locations that I've traveled to. But first, I'm gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won't fall down.”
So far in our Chart series, we’ve hit up a cultural center in West Africa with Lagos, East Africa with Nairobi, Kenya, and now we need to pin down the south. Where could we go other than Johannesburg? Well, I actually tried to get data for Harare, Zimbabwe, but YouTube didn’t have any. So Jo’Burg it is.
I’m looking forward to getting off the beaten path a bit, but you can’t miss the biggest city in South Africa, a locus of so much great music. From marabi to mbaqanga to maskanda to gqom and kwaito, many of the biggest, most charismatic musical genres on the continent come from Johannesburg.
But South Africa also has some of the worst wealth disparity in the world, and getting online is expensive there—Dubai is the only place that spends more on monthly internet than Joburgers. This is partially why only 54 percent of South Africans are online.
Of those Web surfers though, 84 percent use YouTube. So these are the consensus videos for the last week among a wealthier sliver of Joburgers, which include a smash-hit video on the rise in the top spot, and some international hits that sound right at home.
1. Kwesta, “Khethile Khethile” featuring Makwa, Tshego AMG, Thee Legacy
Kwesta’s new video is doing some numbers—500K views in its first three days. I can’t picture any American rapper doing something as baldly sentimental as this beautiful footage of Kwesta hugging his relatives at his wedding to Yolanda Vilakazi (maybe Drake, though). Man, this song is sweet.
2. Kaygee DaKing with Bizizi and Killer Kau, “Kokota”
Bizizi came up as a gqom artist, but I’ve seen this song referred to as “amaPiano”—a mix of gqom and house and jazzy keyboard lines. There’s some sort of rivalry between gqom and kwaito, and there’s some dissent over whether amaPiano is a subgenre of kwaito or if it’s its own thing, which is part of a Johannesburg-Pretoria rivalry that I’m really not qualified to unpack. The point is, amaPiano is on the rise and some are claiming it “has successfully drowned out gqom.”
Kaygee DaKing started as a choreographer before he was a rapper, so when the video for this song actually drops (which has got to be soon), expect some fireworks. For now, a still image can reign as number two on this list, as long as “Kokota” is playing under it.
3. Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road (Official Movie)” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
I thought we had weathered the storm of this song, stopping just short of “inescapable” in America, but y’all across the world can’t get enough of this country/hip-hop hit “Old Town Road.”
For all of its claims to being essentially American, country music catches on all over the world, maybe even especially in Africa. So why not in Johannesburg? They’ve got cattle ranches and what not in South Africa.
Just how popular is this song? “Old Town Road” is so popular in South Africa that Kwesta went ahead and did an acoustic cover of it. It’s not one of the most-viewed videos in Johannesburg this week, but oddly this South African list was running a little short on South Africa. Speaking of which…
4. Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber , “I Don't Care”
Yo! Now this song is also a global hit. And I guess I see why—it’s dolce tenor vocals fit right in with bonga flava in Tanzania and the sweet vocals that anchor Kwesta’s ode to his new bride. Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber elicit a lot of eyerolls in America, but here, as well as in Johannesburg, they also elicit a lot of plays and replays.
5. Prince Kaybee, “Fetch Your Life (Audio)” featuring Msaki
Prince Kaybee is a house music hit machine, and I get it. This song is neoprene smooth. The vocalist Msaki is having herself a year—appearing here; on the February hit “Wish You Were Here” by DJ Black Coffee; and on the hit “Sondela” by Tresor. House music is truly on another level here, especially in terms of how central it is to their pop music.