The Music of South Africa

South Africa is very much involved in the creative arts arena with many levels of talented individuals becoming well recognized internationally.

Musicians and musical groups like Ladysmith Black Mumbazo, Freshly Ground, Just Jinger, Hugh Masakela, and more have graced the shores of America, England and various European countries, with positive results.

The music of South Africa is an eclectic mix of tribal African beats and township jazz along with classical styles and influences from the US and UK rock, pop and rap scene. While visiting South Africa, you can enjoy various live performances at theaters, restaurants, and outdoor amphitheaters under the African sky.

The arts found in this country are also highly creative and interesting with blends of cultures and feelings. You will find very popular shanty pictures which are extremely detailed and use real cans and wrappers to creative a stunningly colorful “shanty town” landscape. Art galleries can be found all over the country in shopping malls, along the streets of certain suburbs, and inside museums and historic buildings. Most art galleries cater for the tourism market displaying stunning works by professional painters and sculptors. African wildlife, seascapes with fisherman cottages, traditional Dutch farmhouses, portraits of the people, and moving surreal images that conjure the imagination are the most popular.

For those that enjoy visiting the theater, you will find that South Africa has a rich and vibrant theater community and healthy audience who flock to see the latest ballet or newest comedy performance. Many of the most well known comedians host one act plays and comedy skits at the major playhouses and theaters alongside moving dramas that touch on past events and inspire new beginnings, stunning ballet shows of the old favorites like Swan Lake, Giselle, Copellia and The Nutcracker and Les Sylphide and various operas like Aida and La Traviata.

Shakespeare is studied in the South African schools as one of the set works and to this end, the theaters put on regular plays like Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Hamlet and more. Perhaps the most popular place to see these performances is the Maynardville Open Air Amphitheatre in Wynberg, Cape Town. Here you are taken into the worlds that The Bard created with realistic enthusiasm as the characters emerge from the trees and massive medieval torches are lit for real.

Many other live shows are produced here every year and many of them have achieved international acclaim. Shows like Stomp, African Footprint, and The Lion King are spectacular, and the traditional gumboot dancers and pantsula dancers are highlighted and recognized.

Included in the arts and culture of South Africa, one cannot forget the booming film industry. Many television series and feature length as well as short films are being produced and “home grown”, as it is called. Many other countries have also fallen in love with the stunning and diverse scenery here and many film companies from India, Canada, Germany and the United States have shot films here. These include Ask the Dusk with Colin Farrell, Lord of War with Nicholas Cage (who enjoyed shark cage diving in Gansbaai on his trip!), Racing Stripes with Hayden Panettiere, Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle, Country of my Skull with Samuel L. Jackson, and the new Daniel Craig movie, Flashback of a Fool among many others.

South Africa is perhaps best known in the film arena for the stunning export – actress Charlize Theron. She was born in Benoni outside of Johannesburg in the Gauteng province and started her career as a model in South Africa. Later she moved to America and followed her passion to be a ballet dancer, but after a knee injury put an end to her dancing career she pursued acting and eventually became the first African woman to win an Academy Award in 2004 for Monster.

Other South Africans that have made their mark in Hollywood include actress Embeth Davidtz who appeared in Matilda, Schindler’s List, Fallen, Thirteen Ghosts and Bridget Jones Diary, as well as Junebug, and the late cinematographer Ted Moore who was the first African to win an Oscar for A Man for all Seasons.

He was director of photography on films like Dr. No, James Bond, (Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, From Russia with Love) and Clash of the Titans.

For a taste of theater and arts in South Africa, be sure to see some shows at the various theaters and major venues all over the country like the Playhouse Theater in Durban, Artscape, Spier Amphitheater and The Baxter Theater in Cape Town, The Civic Theater in Johannesburg, and Sun City Superbowl in the North West Province.

Much of the culture of music, dance and drama in South Africa is accentuated by a love and commitment of all the talented performers to make a difference in the industry and assist those less fortunate to realize their dreams of being on stage. Many groups have been formed to get children off the streets and allow them to dance, sing, act or make music. This caring culture also opens doors for these children to explore the industry internationally and allows the world to see the great talent that this country offers.

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