What is Amapiano?
Amapiano is a Form of South African House Music
Amapiano is a relatively new and distinct genre of house music that emerged from South Africa in the early 2010s. The word “amapiano” loosely translates to “the pianos” in Zulu, and the genre is characterized by a fusion of deep house, jazz, kwaito, and afrobeat elements. The continuous piano melodies, deep bass, with a touch of jazz, and Zulu rhythms set the Amapiano sound apart from other African Pop genres. Hit’s like Tyla’s “Water” have popularized the Genre in the US. Check out her US Debut on the Jimmy Fallon show:
Amapiano is also distinguished from other genres of house music by its focus on slower rhythms, typically ranging between 110 and 120 beats per minute, and its emphasis on melody rather than vocal tracks. It has gained popularity in South Africa and beyond, and its unique sound has made it a favorite in clubs and music festivals around the world. Here’s a London rooftop amapiano set by DJ’s TxC.
Early Ampiano Artists
Some of the most popular amapiano artists include Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa, MFR Souls, Focalistic, and Lady Du, among others. Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa, who often collaborate on tracks, are widely considered to be the pioneers of the genre and have been instrumental in its rise to fame.
Kabza De Small, whose real name is Kabelo Motha, began his music career in 2009 and became known for his deep house remixes of popular songs. He has since transitioned into amapiano and has released several successful albums, including “Pretty Girls Love Amapiano” and “I Am The King Of Amapiano: Sweet and Dust.” DJ Maphorisa, whose real name is Themba Sekowe, is a prolific producer and has collaborated with several artists in the amapiano scene, including Kabza De Small, Focalistic, and Sha Sha.
Kabza De Small is widely regarded as one of the first popular amapiano artists and a pioneer of the genre. He began his music career in 2009 as a DJ, and eventually transitioned to producing amapiano in the early 2010s. As for where he first performed, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact location or event.
Amapiano emerged from the townships of South Africa, particularly in Gauteng province, but many say Amapiano was initially played at house parties, and underground parties in the Pretoria neighborhood outside of Johannesburg (J’burg) South Africa’s capital. The continuous piano keys in the music. Kabza De Small and other early amapiano artists likely DJed and performed at these events and built their following through word of mouth and social media.
However, Kabza De Small’s breakthrough came in 2018 with the release of his album “Avenue Sounds,” which featured several popular amapiano tracks. This album helped to bring amapiano to a wider audience and solidified Kabza De Small’s status as one of the leading artists in the genre.
As we explore the history of the amapiano genre we need to point out, MFR Souls can take credit for the naming of the genre and their relentless efforts to push it into the mainstream also helped popularize the genre. MFR Souls, Tumelo Nedondwe and Tshiamo Rantao, is another popular amapiano group that has gained a large following. They are known for their hit single “Love You Tonight,” which features the vocals of DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small, and Sha Sha.
Another celebrated artist from Zimbabwe is Sha Sha. She was born in Mutare has become the country’s the “Amapiano Queen”. Her song “Woza” has had a millions of views. ‘Woza’ hypes the greatness of Amapiano in a Southern African desert with picturesque canyons.
In 2019, amapiano had its big break. While very few radio stations played Amapiano music it was given a daily slot for airplay at Y FM called the “Amapiano Hour” and this gave it a huge boost in popularity.
Another milestone in popularity came later that year when Live AMP a show on SABC1 (the South African Broadcasting Corporation is seen in header), televised a live DJ mix of Amapiano. This exposure sparked the curiosity of the public and generated huge buzz that lead to more Amapiano releases which were then widely shared on social media platforms pushing it into the global spotlight. This is why we highlight this location as a key point of origin of the genre.
Focalistic, whose real name is Lethabo Sebetso, is also a rising star in the amapiano scene and is known for his hit single “Ke Star.” Lady Du, whose real name is Duduzile Ngwenya, is a singer and songwriter who has collaborated with several popular amapiano artists. She is known for her smooth vocals and has been featured on several hit songs, including “Catalia” by Junior De Rocka and Lady Du and “Umsebenzi Wethu” by Busta 929 and Mpura featuring Lady Du. Here’s a selection of classics and club bangers for you to get a feel for the sound. Newer artists like Uncle Waffles, Felo Le Tee, Myztro, Soa Mattrix are burning up clubs now globally as well.
Amapiano is a unique and distinctive genre of house music that has gained popularity in South Africa and beyond. Its early emphasis on piano melodies has evolved but its slower rhythms, and heavy bass grooves combined with its fusion of different musical elements, has made it a favorite in clubs and music festivals around the world. With artists like Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa, MFR Souls, Focalistic, and Lady Du leading the charge, the future looks bright for the amapiano scene.