music News


It starts with the drum patterns, rarely singular but even when its lonely it’s still poignant and it only gets better if the patterns are numerous. The piano comes next, this is what differentiates it form other forms of contemporary South African house music, everything slows, out of nowhere a voice erupts from the euphony and everything stills for a period. The drums swell again, but this time with more vigor, it’s beautiful but you don’t quite understand what is going on, but your body does and it’s moving with or without your permission. What is this? This is amapiano.

There is no consensus as to who the creator of Amapiano is, but what is easily agreed upon is that it is a synthesis of multiple genres of South African house music made and popularized in the country’s townships. It takes after jazz with its keys, Kwaito – with its basslines and harmonies. It gets its drum patterns and percussion from di Bacardi and its tempo from late ’90s South African house. Sometimes the drum patterns are very reminiscent of Gqom (the Gq is pronounced as a click) and usually played at 115bpm; but its demeanor – sometimes soulful, sometimes carnal, often epicurean – is all of its own making and signifies its own time. The self-proclaimed king of Kwaito, Arthur Mafokate says Amapiano exists because of Kwaito, a revolutionary sound of its time saying;

“Just like trap is to hip hop, amapiano is a sub-genre to Kwaito.”

In its early days, Amapiano was an underground movement, with music shared through social media platforms, especially WhatsApp akin to early 2000s mixtape music culture and through taxis in some South African townships. Taxis play a huge part in the dissemination of new music and played a large part in spreading the popularity of Gqom music in Durban and its townships. It was subsequently heard by DJs who helped spread the sound, oddly enough, the artiste Sha Sha was introduced to Dj Maphorisa, one of the biggest Amapiano artistes by a cab driver, and her voice has become synonymous with the sound, with her on songs like “Nge Thanda Wena” and “Akulaleki.” Other artistes at its forefront are Kabza de Small, the already mentioned Dj Maphorisa and the Jazzi disciples, amongst others.

This genre/sub-genre of music isn’t just confined to South Africa, but has spread across the southern part of Africa and is making its way upwards with artistes like the previously mentioned Sha Sha (real name is Charmaine Mapimbiro) who is Zimbabwean, and in Nigerian music – Rema’s ‘Woman’ and Mayorkuns ‘Of Lagos’ have Amapiano drum patterns, Burna Boy and Wizkid were both featured on Kabza de Smalls ‘Sponono’ and De Mthuda remixed Tiwa Savages ‘Dangerous Love’, it’s even getting international acclaim with Sha Sha winning ‘Best New International Act’ at the 2020 BET Awards.

If you think all this is familiar, remember 2016, Mr. Eazi dropped skintight and introduced Nigeria to Banku music and brought a genre of Ghanaian music to Nigeria and influenced the entire Nigerian music industry, and now four years later, Amapiano might be treading a similar path.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.