South Africa has often been referred to Africa’s technological and economic hub. Filled with diversity, South Africa’s vibrant club culture can, for the most part, be attributed to Mzansi’s love for dance music. House music has always found a safe haven on SA’s dance floors but over the past decade or so there has been undisputable growth within the culture.
Major house/dance labels such as House Afrika, Soulistic Music, Deep Forest, Katsaitis Music and Soul Candi have played a massive role in nurturing the love of house music and supplying patrons with mesmerizing home brewed house tunes. However, it would be and injustice to the genre to not pay homage to the defenders of the underground.
The music and record labels that have stayed true to the culture and continue to put out timeless deep and soulful house music, not for the monetary value that comes with the business but simply for the love of music. There are so many underground independent house music labels in SA, I had a hard time coming up with this list. Be that as it may, I manage to skim it down to 10.
And let’s not get ahead of ourselves, this is not a top ten but simply 10 labels behind South Africa’s thriving underground house scene – in no particular order.
If you’re an avid listener of house music then Do It Now Recordings is a label that should more than just ‘ring a bell.’ Founded in 2009 by 2lani The Warrior, DIN has brought forth some the most blissful music releases and captivating compilations such as the Mechanics of House series and A Night of Deep selected by 2lani The Warrior.
The record label has also been on the forefront of showcasing local talents that have gone on to being well-renown names within house music circles locally and abroad, the likes of Nastee Nev, Deep Xcape, Liquideep and Jazzuelle (who’ll be performing at the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival).
The label continues to defy industry norms and render quality music with every release. Follow and listen here
Favourite release: Bossruu feat. Wandile (Afrotraction) – Ngawe (Incl. Remixes)
One of the most exciting labels to come out of South Africa, We Go Deep was established in 2012 by Mafikeng-born Anthony Kasirivu better known as Luka to us, devoted house heads.
Let me just take this moment to say Luka has to be one of the most hard working producers and label heads out there. I may not know him personally but those who do can surely attest.
His label, We Go Deep, varies in speciality within the different facets of house. From deep to soulful house, lounge to nu-jazz, the label’s catalogue speaks for itself. Don’t just take my word for it, follow and give We Go Deep an ear or two right here
Favourite release: Luka feat. Jaidene Veda – Overstanding
It was one of those late nights in the summer of 2013 when I first came across Just Move Records. While browsing the net for some bangers one could include in one’s set as an aspiring varsity DJ, I came across Thorne Miller – Omnipotent (Dix Remix). Wow! It had ‘international’ all over it.
I became an instant fan but as I dug deeper I discovered the label, Just Move Records, is actually South African based. Co-owned by Mig Madiq and Nuno Estevez, Just Move was founded in 2011 (Miguel will have to forgive me if I got this one wrong lol).
More than the quality of the release, I love how they consistently try to provide a platform for ‘bedroom producers.’ I would name some of them but where’s the fun in that? Take a tour and listen here instead:
Favourite release: Nuno Estevez & Tonic HD – Away EP
After living in the UK for about seven years studying music and thrilling deep house fanatics all over Europe, Floyd Lavine returned to South Africa and teamed up with one of the Cape’s brightest talents, David Dix, to set up and grow their brain child that is Nomadiq Music in Cape Town.
What I love the most about Nomadiq Music is the way in which they fuse the music along with other art forms, art and photography included. Just head on to their website and you’ll get what I mean. And the music, my goodness, the music is too clean. Deep house, techno, minimal house – top drawer releases!
As well, their ambition to exhibit the best of what South African producers and artists have to offer is well blended with the label’s head honcho’s vast international exposure and exploits. Check out Nomadiq’s soundcloud for a better feel of what I’m trying to say, listen here:
Favourite release: Dix – More Than Me EP
Since their debut release in August 2014, DeepStitched have caused ripples within South Africa’s underground house scene. Arguably one of the best deep house/deep-tech labels this side of the equator, DeepStitched is a sub-label of Do It Now Recordings and I must say, head honcho – 2lani The Warrior, deserves a round of applause for the work put in and the quality that resonates within the label as a result.
The label’s catalogue boosts a host of raw talent well complimented by several top international producers that feature as well. As a result, one can definitely say that DeepStitched have definitely stamped their mark not only locally but internationally as well.
We look forward to more fresh and entrancing release from them. If you aren’t already a fan, do the right thing and check out what they’re all about, listen here:
Favourite release: DJ Funky T feat. Lady Mya – The Beast In You Pt. 1
The newest of the labels on this article (founded in 2015), Stay True Sounds is the result of two great minds within the house music industry in Mzansi – Kid Fonque & Jullian Gomes – coming together to establish and independent record label. (they’ll also be performing at the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival in February).
Though the label itself is relatively new, through its two label heads, Stay True has wealth of industry experience. As the name suggest, Stay True is here to revive and nurture the roots of the underground by not only staying true to the sounds that define both these two industry heavyweights but as well introducing a new dimension to the industry via the diverse artists the label has already released.
I foresee Stay True Sounds growing from strength to strength and I look forward to hearing more of their outstanding releases. And if you don’t believe when I say they’re destined for greater heights, give them an ear yourself. The proof is in the pudding! Listen here:
Favourite release: Bruce Loko – After Dark EP
Established in 2012, Antidote Music is based both in South Africa and Swaziland. The label offers a majestic blend of soulful, deep and tech house and complimented by a wide and versatile innovative releases from new upcoming and renowned artists around the world.
The label is solely run by The Antidotes who have made quite an impact in the house music scene since the release of their hit record Nomalungelo Dladla – Imiyalo (The Antidotes Chillout Mix).
Home to names such as !Sooks, Secret Souls, Gruv Basement, Dauw and The Antidotes themselves, the label has gone from strength to strength and their most recent release, Secret Souls – Civil Barbarian (Remixes) is already turning a lot of heads within the deep house circles.
Now before you cry foul, ‘like come on Mmely that’s so bias,’ (yes, I am one of The Antidotes) take a listen and let the music validate Antidote Music’s inclusion in this feature. Listen here:
Favourite release: Gruv Basement feat. Emz – You Again (Incl. Remixes)
Now who says soulful house isn’t part of the underground? Soulful house forms just as much part of the underground in as much as deep house does but that’s a talking point for another day.
From as far back as I can remember, I have always been a fan of Mindlo & Essential-I aka Native Roots. Their label, Deeptone Recordings is an extension of not only their work but as well a platform for local underground soulful house producers to showcase their talent.
The label had its first release back in 2010 and they’ve consistently managed to deliver solid soulful to jazzy house, with a pinch of deep and afro house, releases since then. Check out their soundcloud and I’m sure you’d find a few gems of your own, listen here:
Favourite release: Essential-I feat. Samantha Faison – Directions Pt. 2
It was in autumn 2014 when Lilac Jeans Music dropped their first release. Founded and run by Menu & Floyd – the duo that is Lilac Jeans – the label is based in Soweto Johannesburg.
Initially, the label’s first few releases were by label heads themselves. They used the label as the perfect platform to show and sell their brand of music as Lilac Jeans mainly influenced by jazz to soul, dance/club and soulful house all within the borders of their unique style.
The label later on ventured into showcasing other artists as well and the year 2016 saw a slight upgrade as the label was rebranded and re-launched as Lilac Jeans Records. Two stand out projects in their catalogue are Mr KG – Music In My Head and Tahir Jones – Side-Step EP.
All in all, I have so much love and respect for Menu & Floyd, they have worked hard and have come a long way and I can only hope they continue to bless us with more. Listen to their soundcloud here:
Favourite release: Lilac Jeans & Sean McCabe – Grandfather’s blessings
When many think soulful and jazz-infused house doesn’t hit the right sales figures and doesn’t do so well on the dance floors, Chymamusiq Records Digital stood up and them wrong.
Founded by Metro FM award winning artist/producer extraordinaire, Chymamusique, the label’s first release (in 2011) Chymamusique – Lost In Words EP won over many hearts and the label cemented it’s place with the release of Chymamusique’s Soul and Mind EP and Cannon Soul’s Something Special EP featuring Lunga (#RIPCannonSoul).
Besides Chymamusique, the record label is home to a plateau of remarkable local talent such as John Lundun, Mizz-Dee, Afrique Essence and TekniQ. Most recently, it’s interesting and encouraging to hear news that the record label’s expansion will see them venture into owning a media house which will serve as a recording studio/DJ and music production school/visual and graphic production studio.
Chyma’s Soundcloud page encompasses his own personal works along with that of his label, listen and enjoy here:
Favourite release: Chymamusique – Music Express Session 1
I know so many of you will agree and disagree with me on so much that has been written which is well with my soul. I, myself, feel there are plenty of names that deserve a worthy mention.
From iconic labels such as Multi-Racial Records, Peng Africa and soWHAT Records to fresh and upcoming labels on the rise such as Get Loud (formerly known as Room 38 Music), Surreal Sounds, Funky T Music, Audioarque Records, Define Dub Music and AfroMove Music – Mzansi’s house music scene is filled with soldiers ready and willing to hold it down for the underground.
For tickets to the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival from February 7 – 12, and your chance to hear some of these underground house pioneers, click here.