2nd August 2021
The news from the weekend is that our Amapiano champion, Kabza De Small walked away with 4 SAMA awards. He took the coveted Male Artist of the Year for his ‘King of Amapiano’ album, and along with his musical partner DJ Maphoriso secured Album of the Year, Duo/Group of the Year for ‘Scorpion Kings’ and Best Amapiano Album award for ‘Time in Lockdown’.
In case you have missed the Amapiano features I’ve posted over the past couple of years here is a quick look at this purely South African dancefloor sound that has swept to prominence across the taverns, clubs and airwaves of the country, and Kabza De Small the man.
If you are looking for a definition of what makes up Amapiano you may have a problem, as I found when I first started researching it. The ‘official’ definition is piano melodies, Kwaito basslines, low tempo 90s South African house rhythms and percussions borrowed from another sub-genre, Bicardi.
However, as Siphiwe Ngwenya of the local label Born in Soweto, said in an interview “If you put one hundred guys in a room and you asked them what Amapiano is and where it started, you’ll get one hundred answers and some very heated debates.”
How I would describe it is jazzy dancefloor Afro-soul that is sophisticated, smooth and unmistakably South African. I also think its appeal reaches far beyond the dancefloor. Kabza de Small, who as of the end of 2019 was the most streamed South African artist at the end of 2019 and he has continued to produce top quality tracks. His collaboration with another top name, DJ Maphorisa goes under the name The Scorpion Kings and features a range of local talented vocalists, producers and musicians.
I’ve chosen a track from Kabza’s ‘King of Amapiano Album’ to start with. ‘iPiano’. Welcome to Amapiano folks!
Where Amapiano started is a hotly contested debate. The popular theory is that it is Johannesburg based, coming from the township music of Soweto, Alexandra, Vosloosrus and Katlehong. However, because the percussion is similar to Bicardi (another sub-genre), some say it was made popular by Pretoria taxi drivers playing mixes from local favourite, DJ Mojava.
For overseas members, I must explain. Johannesburg and Pretoria are only around 50km apart, so we are talking specifics here! Wherever the starting point, the mixes started being shared on social media and the popularity sky-rocketed the sound from sub-genre to mainstream.
My second choice of song comes from the ‘Return of the Scorpion Kings’ album which won two of the four SAMA awards, ‘Chuze‘. The song was written by another local artist who came onto my radar, the very talented Samthing Soweto. His distinctive voice is perfect for this track.
In closing off today’s feature on Amapiano I’m featuring a track from the third album to have won the Best Duo at the SAMA awards, ‘Once Upon A Time In Lockdown’. iNtombi features Sekiwe and Mas Musiq handling some remarkable (and distinctly South African) vocals.
I was really thrilled to see my favourite New Zeeland outfit Fat Freddy’s Drop mention how Amapiano had inspired them to compose the track ‘Shifty’ on their latest album. Because the origins are unresolved and the genre is still growing, who knows where this phenomenon is going and what the next incantation of this very cool South African sound is.
Thanks for joining me exploring Amapiano today. The more I am researching this new genre, the more remarkable music I’m finding. I hope you haven’t just flipped past today’s posts because you don’t think this music might be ‘you’. This is Proudly South African music with an international appeal. Catch you soon.
The Loving the Music features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music’s Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular posts that do more than just share a song.
The Author owns no copyright of the images or videos in this article. All images and links are sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.
Words © Andrew Knapp 2021