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SA popular music is in your debt for undertaking this task & sticking with it for so long, during an extended period when nobody noticed what you were doing. Respect!

— Gwen Ansell

Book information

ISBN: 978-1-928341-62-8

Trim size: 295 x 210mm

Binding: Paperback

Page count: tbc

Imagery: Music scores; full colour and black and white photographs and illustrations

Price: R525.00

Genre: Music

Publication Date: March 2021



The uniquely South African style of playing guitar is fast disappearing. The masters are passing on very fast, most of the music schools are not teaching that style, and many young musicians have been swallowed up in the commercial effort to make quick money. Professional musicians, scholars and journalists who want to research South Africa’s musical innovations struggle to find the necessary information. There is a real possibility that important aspects of our heritage and musical legacy will die away.

An Introduction to South African Guitar Styles Vol. 1 is an exploration of the history of the guitar in Black South African popular music over five decades and the most important styles to have evolved around it: marabi, maskanda, African jazz, kwela, mbaqanga and XiTsonga. It presents biographies and the historical background of each of the musical styles as well as stave notations of the most important, most frequently played tunes from old South African classics while celebrating past South African guitar players, sidemen and bandleaders.

To provide an understanding of the geography, culture and era from which each guitar style emerged and evolved, every effort has been made to locate the biographies and discographies and transcriptions of the work of ground-breaking guitarists and innovators in those genres.

This book is for beginner and intermediate guitar players as well as those who are advanced but, in spite of musical experience, may not have a good understanding of or exposure to the range of South African guitar styles. It is an accessible tutorial for those who can formally read music and those who play only by ear, and it contains online visuals for reference purposes.

To add depth and various perspectives, guest artists were invited to address various aspects of the tutorials and include demonstrations and interviews in videos that are available on All demonstrations are presented close-up in slow motion for learning purposes and also in their original faster tempos.

This book is a useful resource and reference for teachers, researchers, professionals, journalists, music schools and the general public, all of whom will become custodians of our heritage, even as members of audiences.

South African music is very broad, and when some people think of it, the famous chord progression of I-IV-I/V-V7 comes to mind. However, there is more to it than a just a progression: it involves feeling, and it is spiritual. In this book, I will teach (as much as possible) the phrasing, articulation and technique involved in the various sub-styles. The transcriptions are based on distinctive guitarists who kept the people of South Africa dancing through trying socio-political times.


Billy Monama

In 1997, Billy Monama began his journey with the guitar in his hometown of Mokopane, Mahwelereng in South Africa’s Northern Province. Inspired by the music of his childhood, which combined traditional ethnic sounds, African gospel and jazz, Monama studied music theory, harmony and ensemble work at Central Johannesburg College. He also researched and transcribed guitar masters such as Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Marks Mankwane, Jimmy Dludlu and many other South African musical greats. Monama now leads a band of his own, performing his compositions and arrangements.

A sought-after guitarist, Monama has worked with artists including ThembaMkhize, Abdullah Ibrahim, AndileYenana, Sibongile Khumalo, Victor Ntoni, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, MbongeniNgema, Dorothy Masuku, Abigail Kubeka and many others. His skills in musical arrangement have spilled over into the dance and movement industry where he has repeatedly worked as musical director on productions by the internationally acclaimed Vuyani Dance Company. Monama sees himself as part of the new generation of South African musicians who want to take the music of the African continent to greater heights.

Billy Monama is founder of the Grazroots Project, a collaboration of musicians, teachers and composers to revive classic South African songs. In 2016, Billy and Andy Innes released their album Brothers, a collection of original pieces written and arranged for the acoustic guitar in traditional styles. In October 2017, he released his debut album Rebounce.