I recently took part in the first four-day tour of Amapiano’s historic sites in Mamelodi, Pretoria, Soweto and Johannesburg, South Africa.
It was a Spotify initiative in partnership with South African Tourism, and it was a journey that immerses you in an unexpected musical journey that you never want to end.
This trip featured selected influencers, content creators and journalists from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa eager to explore this music genre that continues to captivate music fans around the world.
The idea behind the tour was to understand the origins of Amapiano, arguably South Africa’s hottest cultural export right now.
To provide further insight, the Spotify team hosted interviews on Amapaino’s influence and future with front-liners such as Young Stunna, Focalistic, Kamo Mphela and legendary forefather of the genre, DJ Maphorisa.
As I delved into the stories of these artists and their remarkable feats, and with the help of Spotify’s Amapiano streaming and influence data, I was struck by a revelation: the genre’s infectious energy has effortlessly infiltrated nations, driven by power beyond borders. exchanges and artistic collaborations.
The numbers don’t lie
Before the trip, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of facts, insights and statistics about Amapiano. For example, Spotify’s latest data shows that while Afrobeats puts Nigeria on the world map, Amapiano does the same for South Africa.
The streaming giant said the genre had gained a huge following, with more than 240,000 playlists on Amapiano’s title and more than 10 million playlists featuring at least one Amapiano song.
More than 40 percent of Amapiano streams come from listeners outside of South Africa. Now, that’s staggering data.
Additionally, Spotify data showed that the nearly 2 billion streams recorded in 2022 represented an annual growth of 143 percent.
In our enlightening session with the experts, our hosts informed us that the birth of Amapiano was the result of a dynamic fusion between Kwaito, House and many other elements of South African culture.
With its expansive, driving bass lines and distinctive high piano tones, Amapiano’s unmistakable sound sets it apart from any other genre.
The genre emerged commercially in South Africa in 2019 and has immediately captured the imagination of music lovers in countries such as France, Morocco and Japan.
At various points of the journey, some facts stood out: Amapiano comes from a long legacy of underground music that has left its mark in South Africa and now the world.
Pioneers are also mixing with local music scenes around the world to create a haven for reinterpretation and cultural exchange. Think Focalistic’s 2021 collaboration with Davido on ‘Champion Sound’.
When 2021 arrived, the South African Amapiano Music Awards were born.
A number of music streaming platforms and prominent online music stores, including Beatport, would create Amapiano charts and playlists a year later.
It’s impossible to write about the growth of the genre without mentioning the massive role that social media platforms like TikTok played in Amapiano’s worldwide appeal and acceptance.
TikTok dance challenges boosted the South African dance scene and Amapiano’s songs went viral.
The tour started with a visit to the Jack Budha cultural pub in Mamelodi, Pretoria.
This Sunday evening, Amapiano went from the DJ set to our ears and spilled over to the corner of Tsweu street where Jack Buhda is.
It was only a matter of time before the young dancers came to entertain us with some groovy amapiano moves that many of us lapped up.
Jack Budha is notable as a place where artists came to listen to Amapiano’s sets for hours, get inspiration and write lyrics.
While the Center may be known for many things, for musicians like Focalistic, it’s about more than being together. This is where his love for Amapiano was born.
The musician, one of the top five promoters of the genre, was in attendance to share some insights.
“We used to come here (Jack Budha) and listen to Amapiano’s sets for three hours. We wanted to escape from the noise and do our own thing as Africans, speaking in our mother tongue,” recalls the rapper turned footballer.
Amapiano sure makes a mark in our hearts and has emotions. But for Focalitic, it’s spiritual.
”For us, it was a way to escape the noise of hip hop at the time and to be closer to our roots. You know, South Africans came from a home. This related us to Amapiano; it felt a more familiar canvas and closer to our hearts,” said the Champion Sound crooner.
Focalistic, who has dabbled in hip-hop, also noted that Jack Budha was involved in Amapiano’s history in South Africa as it served as a melting point and creative outlet for his tastes.
After her session, I made a mental note to join an Amapiano class, a new addition to my bucket list.
Our next stop was in South Western Township (Soweto), named as the birthplace of Kwaito and Kasi Rap, two genres that preceded and influenced Amapiano.
We learned that, like Amapiano’s predecessors, the musicians of Soweto remained underground until the early 2010s, when their music began to be appreciated throughout South Africa.
They currently have many ambassadors including Toss, Kamo Mphela, Samthing Soweto, Njelic, Semi Tee, Daliwonga and DJ Stokkie.
Now that discos and DJs contribute to the appreciation and growth of Amapiano, Konka was definitely a must-visit.
Konka Day Club is the hub of South African lifestyle entertainment. It is also a favorite among Gen Z, who decide to attend successful clubs.
The legendary forefathers of the genre, DJ Maphorisa, gave us an iconic ending to the journey with a live studio session about Nigerian artist Amapiano and Wurld taking the lyrics from him.
Insert photo (with lyrics from Nigerian artist DJ Maphorisa and Wurld.)
But what is Amapiano without dancing? To explore how dance is an integral part of the genre, we went to a dance studio in Sandton, Johannesburg, where South African star Kamo Mphela was waiting to lead her through her dance routine.
Dance is an essential part of Amapiano, so we taught him some moves inspired by Mphela’s latest release, ‘Hannah Montana’.
The experience was beyond enlightening and memorable; what else could create an atmosphere like Amapiano?
Insert photo (Mphela teaches us some moves inspired by her latest release, ‘Hannah Montana’)
Enter Young Stunna
Finally, we were treated to a fireside chat with Johannesburg’s Amapiano star, Young Stunna, and Phiona Okumu, Spotify’s head of sub-Saharan music.
The pair delved into the growth of the genre, specifically looking at the role of clubs in promoting the genre.
Ms Okumu said Spotify is positioning the genre by partnering with artists, understanding where the gaps are and finding out what streaming is and how it benefits.
He said: “From the beginning, we’ve been close to the (Spotify) culture, identifying the stars, making sure they’re on the playlist and making sure we have relationships with them and engage with the world. That’s why you can see Amapiano explode in London, Toronto and New York, available on streaming because there is
”You can only appreciate Amapiano by seeing how people consume, produce and enjoy it in South Africa. It is an opportunity to create cultural immersion. In Africa we don’t do enough to understand each other’s cultures and exercises like this help us”.
He also stated that one of the most exciting things about Amapiano is the dedication to being yourself and doing yourself.
Ms. Okumu said given the attention Amapiano is getting, what needs to be done is to build the infrastructure through music streaming because the industry will thrive if artistes can make a viable living.
The young Stunna, known for his hit singles ‘Bopha’ and ‘Adiwele’, likened Amapiano to a culture bubbling under the surface. However, it needed a little more visibility.
He shared the background of some of his colleagues’ efforts to better position gender.
”We needed to get the word out that this music was happening and popular locally in Pretoria, Soweto and all these places. We organized a small convention of producers, songwriters and label owners to understand what they were dealing with as a genre. We saw that the music was being produced almost hand to mouth, and then it moved on to the next thing,” he recalled.
With Amapiano pushing boundaries and doing what he’s doing in the world, the 25-year-old singer said he couldn’t be happier.
”Amapiano can only be appreciated after seeing how the source consumes, produces and enjoys it. For us, it was an opportunity to create cultural immersion. I think in Africa we don’t do enough to appreciate each other’s cultures when we actually love each other’s music.
”I think that exercises like this allow us to see how people live and if culture is useful or valuable to people. You develop a certain kind of respect,” he said.
Live in Amapiano
The young Stunna said that he was introduced to Amapiano at the end of 2018 and two years later he left his first track. At first, he said, he was not familiar with the commercial sound of Amapiano music.
Today, the talented singer owes his success to street.
”Back then I didn’t have Instagram because I didn’t pay for data or airtime; I browsed for free. It was difficult for me to put the craft on Instagram; the streets helped me push the sound,” he said.
While more non-South African musicians such as Asake, Naira Marley or Kizz Daniel continue to employ Amapiano, Young Stunna is not afraid, and not threatening. Instead, the more the merrier.
”There is no doorman here. We cannot fight against people’s opinions. They used to say that Asake Amapiano was the best lyricist, and what about me? It’s not just Amapiano, and it’s actually not from South Africa. We don’t react like fans do. I listen to Asake’s music and love it. We don’t have to be afraid of outsiders shaping our sound. After all, Amapiano will be around for a long time”, he concluded.
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