South African producer, DJ, and songwriter Sun-El Musician has achieved commercial success and international recognition with his warm, uplifting blend of deep house, kwaito, and pop. He is one of the primary artists associated with the amapiano (Zulu for “pianos”) style, which originated in Johannesburg during the mid-2010s and became highly popular throughout South Africa by the end of the decade. After breaking through with his simmering 2017 single “Akanamali” (featuring Samthing Soweto), he became an in-demand producer, frequently working with vocalists such as Simmy, Ami Faku, and Mthunzi, all of whom appear on the second Sun-El Musician full-length, 2020′s To the World & Beyond.
Sanele Sithole was born in a small town called Mooi River in 1989. He briefly attended the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2007, but dropped out. He moved to Johannesburg in 2015, and began pursuing his career as a musician. In 2016, he recorded “Akanamali,” a song about being broke, with singer/songwriter Samthing Soweto in a makeshift studio using donated equipment. Being a perfectionist, he wasn’t satisfied with the song at first, and it sat unreleased for several months before his brother urged him to work on it further. It was released as his debut single in May 2017 and quickly became a huge hit, earning a platinum certification and opening the doors for numerous collaborations, both at home and abroad. Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz heard the song on a trip to South Africa, and flew Sithole out to the United States to work on music together.
Sun-El Musician’s debut album, Africa to the World, was released in 2018, including further hit collaborations with Simmy and S-Tone as well as a remix of Oumou Sangaré’s “Yere Faga.” Sun-El Musician won several awards for “Akanamali” at the 2018 South African Music Awards, and “Sonini” (with Simmy and Lelo Kamau) was named Record of the Year at the 2019 ceremony. Sithole founded his own label, El World Music, and produced singles and album cuts for vocalists such as Ami Faku, Sino Msolo, and Azana. His second full-length, the double album To the World & Beyond, arrived in 2020, featuring many of his regular collaborators as well as Claudio x Kenza, Julia Church, Kenyan band Sauti Sol, and numerous others. Additionally, Sun-El Musician co-produced Afro-house legend Black Coffee’s single “You Need Me” (featuring Maxine Ashley), which appeared at the end of 2020 and was subsequently included on the 2021 album Subconsciously. ~ Paul Simpson