South Africa’s fresh house music phenomena that kept us moving when the world stopped!
Let’s take a brief stroll back to February 2020: it’s a month on from the New Year and people worldwide are forced indoors to safeguard themselves from the mortal mystery that is the Corona Virus. Many are concerned and most confused. Nobody knows how long this invisible predator will keep us shut away. It is the first time in many lifetimes where people have seen the world stand still.
With the implementation of the “new normal” people needed new means to occupy themselves while indoors. Home workouts, digital cooking classes, and Instagram lives were people’s sole sources of entertainment. Our resilience in the constant battle against boredom saw us discover new interests and saw us delving deep into our old ones.
Those with a generous algorithm might have come across a YouTube channel by the name of MajorLeagueDjz, a pair of twins uploading roughly hour-long streams titled “AmaPiano Balcony Mix” along with their original music.
AmaPiano (Zulu for “the pianos”) is a sub-genre of house music conceived in 2012 by the South African music duo MFR Souls. The sound of AmaPiano has a seamless mix of African and Western contemporary influences. Its roots in house music are reminiscent of old school drum and bass, jungle, and rare groove but implement aspects of jazz and high pitched pianos that add a graceful essence to the South African sound.
Now nearly a decade after its inception, AmaPiano is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Outside of South Africa, the UK and USA are quickly becoming attuned with the sound. The once overlooked sub-genre is claiming free real estate in everyone’s playlist faster than has ever been seen before.
AmaPiano Grooves analytics for 2020-21 (source: @SpotifySA)
Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa, Focalistic, and Aymos are talented acts included in Spotify’s list of most-streamed AmaPiano artists. Aided by Spotify’s AmaPiano Grooves playlist, people all over the world can easily experience the music, thus extending its global reach.
AmaPiano’s ripe influence is evidenced by how artists from countries outside of South Africa have felt compelled to try their hands at it. Nigeria has explicitly been enamored with the sound, even more so after superstar Nigerian artists Wizkid and Burna Boy were recruited for the remix to Kabza De Small’s hit song “Sponono” last June.
However, Nigeria’s adaptation to the genre “Afropiano” has been met with some controversy. Afropiano, created by merging South African house beats with the upbeat tempo of Afrobeat music, has seen the native fans of AmaPiano express their disinterest in “watering down” the standard of the music to make it more accessible. It’s flare is in it’s originality.
Witnessing the infectious nature of this music firsthand, many countries are opting for their artists to not fall under the influence of AmaPiano. Ghana’s own celebrity entertainment host, Don “Da Don” Tsegah, believes Ghanaian artists should focus on cultivating their own sounds instead of being too quick to hop on trends.
Don is quoted from his radio show DayBreakHitz saying “Ghanaians, I do not know, we don’t value what we have. It’s like we always want to jump on a new trend. We don’t want to preserve trends and let people jump on our trends. I find it disconcerting.”–“I am not saying people should not do it but the movement is becoming too strong and I am a bit scared.”
Of course, South Africa is not the sole runner of the African house movement, there are artists and fans worldwide who appreciate the genre. On Davido’s latest album “A Better Time” he adopted the sound on two of his tracks (“LaLa” and “I’ve Got a Friend”). It is becoming gradually more common for African artists to include an AmaPiano track on their albums lately, giving way to more collaboration between Afrobeats and AmaPiano artists.
“During the lockdown, AmaPiano music was the one thing that kept me going, and it’s only great that we can also enjoy this amazing sound here in the UK.”– Attendee of the “AmaPiano Bottomless Brunch” in Boxpark, Shoreditch London
Not surprisingly, of all the stakeholders of AmaPiano, the consumer has reaped the most benefits. With the recent rise in AmaPiano themed club events, boat rides, house parties, and festivals. It is clear that AmaPiano has made a valuable first impression on the general public, therefore, making considerable progress on its goal of world domination.
With this type of momentum, there is no telling what’s next for the world’s new favorite genre. As long as the music keeps flowing, we’ll love to hear it.
Keep up to date with the latest and greatest in AmaPiano music with Spotify’s AmaPiano Grooves playlist linked below and be sure to be on the lookout for AMA Fest, Ghana’s largest AmaPiano festival coming up on December 30th, 2021 in Accra.
What AmaPiano songs are you listening to as we make our way to Ghana in December?