Amapiano crash course: Past, present and future of this SA music craze

Amapiano has won over the hearts of many South Africans and has become the top music choice at most parties, clubs or bars. However, many people are actually unaware of the history of the genre and the people who are responsible for turning it into the banger that it has become. 

Everybody's dancing to the amapiano beat


From Vigro Deep's brilliant baselines in his songs to Kabza de Small and DJ Maphorisa and their dance-along tunes, amapiano has been making waves across South Africa's music scene.


Vocalists, such as Bontle Smith, Samthing Soweto, Shasha, Njelic, Focalistic and many more, have also been featured on amapiano hits that have setting the pace in clubs.


Amapiano is one of the fastest-growing genres' in the country always getting the crowds on their feet no matter how big or small the event.


Even though amapiano hasn't been enjoying mainstream status for more than two years, it boasts a rich history. 

Where did it all begin? 


Amapiano originated in Johannesburg townships, mainly Alexandra, Vosloorus and Katlehong, around 2014. The genre is also associated with the Pretoria townships Atteridgeville and Mamelodi. These township DJs would play their keyboards over some deep house music.


With reference to the SHAYA! documentary exploring the origins of amapiano, musical duo MFR Souls decided to formally name the new genre "amapiano".


The direct translation for "amapiano" is simply "pianos". "Ama" is a collective noun, and the collective noun was used to also include elements that contribute to the unique amapiano sound, such as the piano, jazz, synthesizers and basslines.  


DJ Da Kruk would often get submissions from amapiano DJs which led him to create an amapiano hour on his show on YFM at the time which is where the genre got its first bit of radio play.


Next to MFR Souls, double act JazziDisciples and Kabza de Small, as well as Kwiish SA, pioneered and drove the sound to where it is now in 2020. 

Amapiano criticism 


Many deep house DJs have criticised the genre for being no different that deep house, gqom or even ordinary house. Even though their concepts and elements are vastly different, they argue that amapiano is not an innovative genre and sounds very similar to the gqom genre which originated in KwaZulu-Natal.


In 2019, amapiano took over from gqom as the genre that excites people and gets them on the dance floor.


The well-loved genre has also come under fire for its aggressive and rather inappropriate lyrics that encourage unfitting behaviour, for example, Semi Tee & Miano's summer song, Labantwana ama Uber.


The song even had thousands of South Africans dancing along to its beat with an accompanying hand gesture that indicates drugs use, which concerned the older generation. 

Continuous growth of amapiano 


Amapiano saw many newcomers into South Africa's music scene, such as Shasha, Miano, Kamo Mphela, as well as hip-hop artists Cassper Nyovest and Focalistic, rapping over some smooth amapiano vocals. 


The genre will certainly (COVID-19 aside) dominate it's second December and push out more hits that we'll all be dancing to. It would be exciting to see what amapiano will have in store for us next.