Log into Tiktok or other social media platforms and you are likely to see videos of people dancing to a cool style of house music. This hypnotizing sound called Amapiano demands that you notice it, accept it and join the growing number of people moving their bodies to the music. Originating from South Africa, Amapiano has gone from being just a sound to a global movement and culture. We take a look at the growing rise of Amapiano in Nigeria and the rest of the globe:
What is Amapiano?
Amapiano, a word meaning ‘the pianos’ in Zulu, is a South African hybrid of music genres like house, jazz, and lounge music. These are characterized by synths, airy pads, and wide percussive melodies.
It is distinguished by high-pitched piano melodies, Kwaito basslines (another South African genre formed in the 90s), low tempo 90s South African house rhythms, and percussions from another local subgenre of the house known as Bacardi.
Origins of Amapiano
Although the genre gained popularity in Katlehong the township East of Johannesburg, there has been a lot of debate concerning the genre is unclear. Because of the genre’s similarities with Bacardi, some people assert the genre began in Pretoria and there has been an ongoing debate about the origin of Amapiano.
Various accounts as to who formed the popular genre make it impossible to accurately pinpoint its origins. “If you put one hundred guys in a room and you asked them where [AmaPiano] started, you’ll get one hundred answers and some very heated debates,” Siphiwe Ngwenya, cofounder of the South African label Born in Soweto told Spotify. However, the creation of this genre has been attributed to Mdu aka TRP. On the ‘originator’, Amapiano pioneer Kabza De Small said:
“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how he figured out the log drum. Amapiano music has always been there, but he’s the one who came up with the log drum sound. These boys like experimenting. They always check out new plug-ins. SO when Mdu figured it out, he ran with it.”
From South Africa to Nigeria
Popularized by the likes of Kabza de Small, DJ Maphorisa, Focalistic, Oskido, and other South African music heavyweights, the genre of music has enjoyed massive acceptance over Africa especially in Nigeria since the last quarter of 2020. However, unknown to many Nigerians, elements of Amapiano have been in Nigeria, under the Afro-House genre as the two genres share similarities. Niniola has been making use of the Afro-house sound since 2017 when she released her debut album, This Is Me, which has 1.7 million streams on Spotify.
Since 2017, Amapiano has been used by various Nigerian artists including:
Last year, the Amapiano influenced single High Way featuring Nigerian rapper, Phyno, found mainstream success. With its stellar audio production by Yung Willis and over a million audio streams, the accompanying music video amassed over 3 million views on YouTube.
Folarin Falana aka Falz released the Amapiano single Squander featuring the Queen of Afro-house music, Niniola, in December 2020.
The remix followed a few months later featuring South Africa’s Amapiano sensations, Kamo Mphela, Mpura and SayFar alongside, Niniola. On his reason for jumping on the Amapiano trend, he said:
“I love South Africa, I love the culture and the food. I am really excited about this remix with Kamo Mphela, Mpura & SayFar because it’s a great blend of South African & Nigerian music. Like the first song with Niniola, this is sure to keep you on your feet. Kamo Mphela & Mpura were the best people to complement the song giving it that full amapiano sound because of their distinct voices.”
Towards the end of the year, Falz released yet another Amapiano record with SayFar and Bontle Smith titled Oga.
His KPK (Ko Por Ke) single featuring Moh Bad is a typical example of Amapiano sound which fused Nigerian Street Hop. Released in December 2020, this song has quickly become a street anthem, generating over 10 million combined streams from multiple platforms.
Zinoleesky’s 2020 release, Kilofeshe, is viewed as one of the the best Amapiano takes from a Nigerian artist. The song was able to amass over 3 million streams on Spotify and YouTube respectively, and as of February 2021, was the amongst the Top 10 Songs in Nigeria for Apple Music.
What is the Future of Amapiano in Nigeria?
This is not the first time Nigeria has tapped into a popular ‘foreign’ sound. Back in the early 00s, Congo’s makossa, which was made famous by the likes of Koffi Olomide and Awilo Logomba. Ghana’s Azonto wave was also largely appropriated.
Artists like Davido, Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Naira Marley have already started to take advantage of the sound by collaborating with South African artists. This in a sense helps preserve the genre while also offering a new frontier for the industry and scope for growth.