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SA’s non-official national anthem - Mandoza’s Nkalakatha’s resurgence on Spotify

The late Kwaito star Mandoza performing on stage. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko.

The late Kwaito star Mandoza performing on stage. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko.

Published Sep 14, 2023


Johannesburg - Dubbed by many as South Africa’s unofficial anthem, Mandoza’s hit tune Nkalakatha is not just popular in the nation’s multi-cultural circles, but has also been experiencing a resurgence on Spotify.

According to data from the global streaming platform, Nkalakatha is the late Kwaito star’s all-time top streamed song since Spotify launched in South Africa. It is followed by Respect Life, taken from the Mandoza album released a few years following the Nkalakatha cultural phenomenon, Indoda, Sgelekeqe - Mindlo Mix, and Tsotsi Yase Zola tally in the top five most streamed songs.

Meanwhile, Spotify pin-pointed Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town, respectively, as the places where Mandoza’s music is streamed the most in South Africa. In addition, Gaborone in Botswana and Auckland in New Zealand led the cities outside South Africa, and interestingly, Auckland and Perth in Australia were among the top cities streaming Mandoza’s music five years ago when Spotify launched.

Few Kwaito artists entered the 2000s music scene in the spectacular manner Mandoza did. While not his debut release - he was previously part of the group Chiskop, and a year before releasing the album, 9II5 Zola South - Nkalakatha’s release was epic.

The trend of uniquely South African genres like Gqom and Amapiano breaking through the barriers we see today started with Kwaito songs like Nkalakatha, pre-streaming. And while this trend is led by Gen Zs in the current streaming world, millennials and Gen Xs rode with Mandoza from stadium to stadium and from one television show to another.

Mandoza passed away in September 2016, a few years after releasing his last album, Sgantsontso, which would go on to be nominated in Best Kwaito Album category at the South African Music Awards. Two years later, Spotify launched in South Africa, completely transforming music listening.

Mandoza’s biopic titled Nkalakatha: The Life of Mandoza, chronicling his ascent to the upper echelons of the music industry in South Africa, was announced on July 16 and began airing in August on BET. It feels like a full circle moment, as upon its release, Nkalakatha quickly travelled to Rugby and soccer matches nationwide while also dominating the airwaves and prominent lifestyle television shows like Jam Alley.

A look at Spotify data shows a streaming spike between that date until August 28, with Nkalakatha leading as the most streamed song. It was also his all-time top streamed song since Spotify launched in South Africa.

But this is not the first time the industry has paid homage to Mandoza. After his passing, Back For More, a single celebrating his life, was released to celebrate his life and re-introduce his music to the public.

It was available on Spotify from 2017, but his older millennials and Gen Z fan base were finally able to stream his music on Spotify from 2018.

“Technology advances within the audio space enables music released pre-streaming to be discovered, which in turn aids the growth of the creator economy at large. Our intent is to further make the discovery on the platform more meaningful,’ said Spotify’s Sub-Saharan Lead, Music Strategy and Operations, Warren Bokwe.

Meanwhile, Bokwe added that Nkalakatha, the album, is the top most streamed album and rounding up the top five albums are Mandoza, Tornado, Phunyuka Bamphethe, and Champion, all of which their positions remained pretty unchanged pre-and post-announcement of the biopic.

Bokwe also explained that 35 to 44 year olds lead the pack, followed by 30 to 34 year olds, when it comes to Mandoza’s listeners.

“This is little wonder as they grew up around the time when he was making his mark on the South African music industry. Unsurprisingly, Gen Zs, who were either young or not yet born when the top five songs and albums were released, are trailing behind,” he said.