Amapiano? Is there anything special about this genre of music? Well, if a global sensation like Burna Boy has praised the sound, going as far as calling it “life-changing”, then it is most likely something worth talking about.
It’s a very difficult task to listen to this catchy genre of music and not get lost in a dancing frenzy. So how did the Amapiano genre swoop in and spread its wings across so many African countries? We’ll take a look into that right after discussing what exactly Amapiano is.
What is Amapiano?
Amapiano literally means “the pianos” in Zulu (the tribal language of the Zulu people in South Africa). In fact, it is fondly called piano by lovers of the groovy genre while producers, artists, and fans involved with the sound are popularly referred to as Yanos. The name Amapiano attributes to the glaring fact that it largely consists of chord progressions of the piano. It is that energetic sound that blasts right through you (Bonus points if you are using earphones). It infuses rich keyboard notes, log drums, synthesizers, and thumping basslines to produce a beautiful and energetic sound that many people have come to love and enjoy. One extraordinary thing about Amapiano is that it is no longer just a genre of music, but has now become more of a lifestyle, culture, and form of expression for the average South African, especially the youths. The signature dance moves and electric vibes associated with the genre all serve to tell the rich African story while keeping us entertained at the same time.
How it all began:
Amapiano is a relatively young genre of music; at least when compared to other older genres like reggae, hip-hop, and jazz. The exact year when Amapiano started isn’t known but many people believe that it can be traced back a few years ago to 2012 meaning it is about a decade old. There are still many misconceptions about the Amapiano genre. I mean some people still think that Amapiano is a DJ instead of a genre. Up till now, there are still arguments regarding the origin of the Amapiano sound, but it is generally believed that Amapiano takes its roots in South Africa, in the bustling city of Johannesburg to be specific. Amapiano takes roots from a style of music called Kwaito coupled with deep house music, and Jazz. Kwaito, just like Amapiano originated from Johannesburg in South Africa. With Kwaito, the core of the sound is majorly African melodies which have been overlapped with a relatively slower tempo than the typical house music formats. Similar to Amapiano, it features an energetic rhythm and deep basslines.
This genre was made popular by South African Amapiano pioneer artists like MFR souls and Kabza de Small who pushed the sound from its earlier days of little beginnings until it became a globally recognized genre. It is believed that Amapiano previously used to be known as a number before it was renamed by MFR souls. At some point, Amapiano was limited to just beats primarily created by South African producers. This was the state of the genre until South African artists began to layer vocals and lyrics over the distinct tunes. One of such artists is De Small, a young DJ, and producer who was among the pioneers to introduce vocals to Amapiano beats.
Amapiano’s explosion into the global scene came to be precisely around the year 2019 with notably increased streaming and global recognition amongst music lovers. This continued to go on during the covid-19 pandemic despite the obvious limitation due to a reduction in social activities. During this time, more artists started to experiment and blend different tunes.
Amapiano: The Trending Sound
There were days when Amapiano existed in obscurity, largely unknown by most people on the international scene. Today, we see that the story has changed. In South Africa and even all over the world, Amapiano has been received with open arms. Songs with their characteristic catchy beat are now flying off the charts and smashing records, surprising skeptics who doubted that they could ever be taken seriously, how much more in the global scene.
At first, a lot of radio stations and TV channels undermined the quality of the type of music, except for a few people like Da Kruk who showcased the then budding genre without hesitation. This has all changed since, at the moment, Amapiano is the most streamed genre of music all over South Africa.
Trending not just in South Africa…
Truth be told, Amapiano has evolved from being a mere trend to becoming a culture and lifestyle. The sound has won its way into the hearts of several nations across the globe. Many African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, have showcased the Amapiano sound in their albums and EPs. Popular Nigerian songs with the Amapiano tune are ‘Loading’ by Olamide and BadboyTimz, ‘Highway’ by DJ Kaywise and Phyno, ‘Squander’ by Falz, and Niniola. Even outside the African scene, countries like Dubai, Japan, and the United Kingdom in other continents have begun not just to appreciate the sound but also to adapt and merge it with their local sounds.
Viral on social media?
The use of the Amapiano sound has transcended across most social media platforms and has recently become an “overnight” internet sensation. The genre of music has quickly gone viral on social media apps especially the visual and auditory platforms like Tiktok and WhatsApp where videos using Amapiano as the background music are repeatedly shared and circulated. This has contributed greatly to the speed at which the Amapiano sound has gone viral in recent times.
Amapiano is finally getting the recognition it deserves around the world. Almost every professional DJ around has a section on his/her set dedicated to the bubbly genre. No matter the varying views that people have about Amapiano, one thing is certain, it is a trending sound not just in South Africa, but in the entire world. The reality is that people like to dance and Amapiano allows them to do just that.