Soulful amapiano takes to the World 

In 2019, amapiano music began to dominate South Africa’s dance floors to an extent that by 2021, the first South African Amapiano Awards were held to mark the rise of the country’s most infectious new music export.  

Last year, the South African dance music genre continued to expand its galloping world-wide reach. The annual awards are now an established event in South Africa’s music calendar. 

Amapiano is a soulful mix of grooves, sonic textures and moods that can be by turns hectic, smooth, melodic, or simply enchanting. It is also defined by its unique percussive bass, all laced with a distinctive piano sound in the background. In short, it’s a fresh new DJ-driven dance music sound with upbeat piano melodies, a slowed down dance beat and rolling drum sound. 

Its ever-growing influence is a joyful celebration of South Africa’s decades-long contribution to global dance music. 

The rise and rise of amapiano 

Amapiano sprang out of the townships of Gauteng as early as 2012 and is continually evolving through musical innovation, public adulation and commercial viability. The craze has spread to parts of southern Africa and to countries in west Africa such as Nigeria and Ghana. In Nigeria, artists are releasing amapiano tracks and albums with an Afrobeat flavour. The east African nations of Kenya and Tanzania are also catching the bug. And amapiano artists are touring the globe. 

Today, the most exciting celebrities to be found in the South African music scene come from amapiano: Focalistic, DBN Gogo, Pabi Cooper, Reece Madlisa, Zuma, Daliwonga, Lady Du, Nkosazana Daughter, Sir Trill and many more. 


Those left behind 

But just as amapiano continues to rage through the South African music spectrum with ingenuity, confidence and creativity, its victims are left perplexed in the dust. Prominent house music DJ Prince Kaybee and Durban’s prodigiously talented Afropop crooner TNS have spoken out about how amapiano is monopolising the music industry. 


Those in the spotlight 

At a glance, the nominees for the 2023 South African Amapiano Awards feature all the usual suspects. The self-styled king of amapiano Kabza De Small leads with nine nominations, followed by Young Stunna with eight, DJ Maphorisa and Daliwonga. There are also several upcoming aspirants on the list, such as Mas Musiq, Toss, Kelvin Momo and Q-Mark and TipCee. For the first time this impressive spread also includes a few prominent Nigerian and Ghanaian stars – Davido, Wizkid, Goya Menor and Nektunez. 


Across the world 

On the international front, amapiano stars are beginning to gain greater exposure from frequent festival appearances across Europe and Africa. London is fast becoming an amapiano hot spot with excursions led by the likes of Major League DJz, TxC, Pabi Cooper, DBN Gogo, Focalistic, Maphorisa, Boohle and others. 

These  activities foreground a much-needed independent mindset because amapiano still lives in a space somewhere between underground and mainstream. From production to promotion, there is a can-do, do-it-yourself attitude among amapiano artists that promises to shift paradigms of how music is appreciated and consumed. 

TikTok and other social media platforms are upsetting and redefining the meaning and nature of hierarchies and democracy in music. Sometimes it is easy to think that amapiano is evolving much too fast for its own good. Already, the corporates are no doubt lurking over its fresh offerings, dreaming up ways to exploit the amapiano craze. 

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