South Africa dumps Hip-Hop, embraces Amapiano Sound

South Africa’s captivating history of dominating music genres is quite interesting.

There has been House music, Gqom, Kwaito, Hip-hop, and now, Amapiano. Amapiano has a distinct sound so electric it’s quite hard to miss. Its thudding basslines, low drum beats, and recurring piano keys give the people just what they want: a good beat to dance to. But before its emergence, Hip-hop dominated the scene for a long time. Now that the authentic Amapiano sound is here, can it take over the beloved Hip-hop, and is what we are witnessing the reign of Amapiano in South Africa?

The Hip-hop era in South Africa

South Africa has had an intriguing relationship with Hip-hop. People believe that the genre emerged in South Africa around the 1980s. Throughout that time, South Africans played Hip-hop songs and began to adapt to some of the traits associated with hip-hop such as outfits and dance moves. It was obvious that the Hip-hop genre brought with it not just the songs but an entire culture. Elements like graffiti art, certain dance moves like street and break dance, as well as DJs, are among the influences that the Hip-hop culture introduced to South Africa. Hip-hop culture has been the most influential music culture in the past few years. Interestingly even with the Black American influences of Hip-hop, South Africans still managed to make it their own. Early South African Hip-hop artists like Emile Jensen, and Afrika Bambaataa were among the pioneers to experiment with Hip-hop in the South African way. Other notable SA hip-hop artists are , HHP, Battlekat, AKA, and Lance Stir amongst others. The South African infusion of SA music styles into Hip-hop is evident in the fact that South African Hip-hop sounds a little bit different from other versions. Even though Hip-hop has had such a huge influence on the South African music industry, it’s obvious that a much newer genre is taking over…

Amapiano taking over

Since around 2012 when Amapiano newly emerged, more South African youths are choosing to embrace the unique sound. After its skyrocket rise in popularity in 2019, reports have shown that there has been an increase in the spread of the genre particularly in historically racially segregated zones in South Africa. This, I think, is no coincidence. Amapiano incorporates Hip-hop and R&B together with house music and Kwaito. The genre, which literally means ‘The pianos’, in the Zulu language consists majorly of keyboard notes along with log drums and synths which all lend to the energetic and upbeat sound of the genre. Another fascinating thing about Amapiano is that it is not based on high drums and exaggerated melodies, but rather on percussion. With all these features, it is easy to see why the Amapiano sound is so infectious and dare I say, addictive. Gone are the days when the Amapiano sound is seen as local and unprofessional. The singers, DJs, and music producers in this genre have been putting in their best to create mind-blowing hits. Amapiano songs are already topping both local and international music charts. The emergence and growth in the popularity of Amapiano in South Africa is evidence of hope and bravery in terms of acceptance of one’s roots and culture.

International Reception

The genre has been very well received in African countries like Nigeria and Ghana where the Amapiano sound is being welded together with Afrobeats to create a uniquely beautiful sound. International celebrities have since been raving about the genre. Not long ago, Burna boy even stated that the sound is “Life changing” and Swizz Beats who is also Alicia Keys’ husband was seen cheerfully dancing to an Amapiano beat. Even in faraway countries like Japan, Dubai, and France, artists are experimenting with South Africa’s intoxicating music genre. The internet has played a huge role in the massive spread of Amapiano in South Africa and across its borders. Many Amapiano songs have gone viral through social media apps like WhatsApp, TikTok, and Instagram. Their addictive tune of Amapiano has also fueled its vitality in recent times. Somehow, everybody wants to be a part of Amapiano because of the perception of the sound. Amapiano has even taken over the sets of almost all DJs in different places like London, Dubai, Nigeria, and so many others. South African people are so enraptured by the Amapiano sound that they believe it is the genre that will lead Africans back to their roots to reclaim their culture. One of the reasons why almost every South African is jumping on the genre is because Amapiano is the kind of sound that immediately resonates with everyone.

Where is Amapiano headed?

Amapiano has reached great heights in the South African music industry and yet it is projected to get even bigger with time. At the moment, a lot of African artists are jumping on the Amapiano sound bandwagon. The amount of Amapiano record that has been released by these artists is ridiculous. It’s obvious that no one wants to miss out on being a part of this wonderful time in music history. Typically, language would be a big limitation in the widespread reach of a genre, but with Amapiano it is different. There’s just something about the sound that cannot be resisted. Some people are even going ahead to make Amapiano covers and remixes of regular songs. The Amapiano fever is already spreading everywhere. This goes to show that truly Amapiano has taken over as the leading sound in the SA music industry.


The truth is that Amapiano is taking over the global music scene and not just that of South Africa. The evolution of South African music is very intriguing. The impact that hip-hop has had on South Africans cannot be overestimated, but with the recent trends in the music industry, it seems as though the ripple effect of Amapiano’s emergence might even be much more monumental than that of Hip-hop. And as for whether Amapiano is just a mere trend or a lasting sound in the South African music industry, only time will tell.

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