Who is South Africa's best-selling musician?

There was shock and laughter as balladeer and soap star Steve Hofmeyr's disc of nostalgic Afrikaans songs was named best-selling album of the year.

But Hofmeyr, who snapped up the prize for Toeka at the South African Music Awards (Sama) at Sun City on Saturday, is a genuine winner.

Toeka has sold 150 000 copies - an album goes gold with just 25 000 sales in South Africa - since its release in January last year.

Sama presenter David Kau was one of those surprised at the award, blurting out "you've got to be kidding" and "is this a joke?"

But Hofmeyr wasn't at all surprised.

He wasn't present to accept the award on Saturday night, which might have saved some embarrassment for Kau - and, despite the honour, for the artist himself.

"It did go gold six times - and that is a lot of sales for an artist in this country," Hofmeyr said on Monday.

"People have ignored and overlooked the power of the Afrikaans music market.

"It is huge," he said.

Someone who wasn't surprised at Hofmeyr's Sama recognition was EMI managing director Irving Schlosberg. Hofmeyr records on the EMI label.

He said: "The Afrikaans market is the most understated in our music industry.

"I think this award is a statement of pure democracy. The category is based on record sales from the beginning of January 2003 to December 31 2003."

Bowline Music spokesperson Liny Kruger, the promoter for a number of top Afrikaans artists, said: "The interest in Afrikaans music has grown in the last two years.

"This is also to do with Afrikaans music festivals around the country, which have made artists more visible.

"The Afrikaans-speaking public are very supportive of these artists. They love their local music."

Hofmeyr is not the only multi-platinum-selling Afrikaans artist.

Others include Theuns Jordaan - his two albums have sold more than 120 000 copies each, and are still selling - and Kurt Darren and Juanita du Plessis.

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