The next generation in African sound - Amapiano cements its place in the international dance scene

By Ronja Döring on Mon, 04/26/2021 - 08:05

It’s not often music develops a new genre, but from the townships of South Africa comes a fresh kind of sound that is taking the dance scene by storm; Amapiano is officially here to stay and Paradise Sound Systems is bringing a hot new player to the table with the much anticipated release of TonicMotion’s Vol.1 due to break it’s way into the European market in May 2021. 

As the youngest member of Africa’s musical family, Amapiano is known for its high pitched baselines and low tempo, traditional of South African house rhythms, whilst drawing influences from its closest ancestors; Jazz, Kwaito, diBacardi and AfroHouse. Punctuated by percussion and a single note, the soulful sound is captivating. 

Having first appeared on the scene in 2012, the genre is surrounded by a certain mystery with the exact township of origin being untraceable but one thing is clear; what started as an underground sound, found primarily in taxis and WhatsApp chats has cemented its place in the music industry, disrupting mainstream production and distribution models as it goes. 

Although its earliest conception is hazy there have been pioneers of the sound, responsible for introducing this uniquely African musical export to the world. Kutloana Nhlapho, better known as Da Kruk, has been instrumental in exposing Amapiano to mainstream audiences both at home and abroad through his Gauteng based show on YFM Radio and the Amapiano International hour he hosts through London’s The Beat FM.

The founding hits were by artists such as Kabza de Small, Kwiish SA, Burna Boy, Wizkis, Tiwa Savage and De Mthuda and found their way to audiences through data sharing platforms across South Africa. By 2014 the underground Amapiano fire had officially begun and its diversity of sound differentiated this musical movement from some of its predecessors with an international appeal that quickly caught on.

The use of warm, uplifting chords and familiar vocals penetrated the mainstream audience providing artists with a wider online and radio listenership. By 2019 and the release of the collaboration between Kabza de Small and DJ Maphorisa “everything i wanted” featuring South African vocalist Mariechan singing the part of Billie Eilish, the world was ready and waiting for an Amapiano hit. This came in the form of Burna Boy’s remix of Master KG’s “Jerusalema” which became an international viral sensation, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard’s World Digital Music charts.

More recent tracks, such as Sara and WurlD’s “Ego” remixed by Major League Djz and Abidoza’s, Tiwa Savange’s “Dangerous Love” released in 2020, gave Amapiano a more mature sound; nicknamed “Harvard or Private School Piano” due to the evolved styles illustration of a producer’s wide musical knowledge. 

The power of social media in this genre was also made evident with tracks such as Kabza de Small’s “Sponono” with Burna Boy and Wizkid (alongside Cassper Nyovest and Madumane) which amassed millions of YouTube views in the first few months of release, a fact that was recognised by Sony’s Music Director of A&R for Sub-Saharan Africa, Spriro Damaskinos, gifting the genre international accessibility.

From the streets of South Africa to the dance floors of Berlin; this influential electronic music movement is prying open the international market for a sound that has grown exponentially and looks dead set to continue.

Paradise Sound Systems is proud to support this exciting and impassioned new genre of electronic sound with the release of TonicMotion, Vol.1

"Something About You" ft Jasper the Jeweler drops on the 7th of May 2021 followed by the full body of work on the 21st of May. With features from M.I Blue and DJ Kwamzy, TonicMotion fuses sounds from across the globe in this sophisticated oeuvre, representing the best of Amapiano internationally. 

In celebration of this exciting genre, we have compiled a playlist for your enjoyment. Please listen and subscribe here.