During the early days of its popularity in 2016, AmaPiano, the uniquely South African take on house music, circulated via low-quality file shares on messaging apps and online forums. Developed by bedroom producers with limited resources, the music spread from phone to phone faster than anyone expected; by early 2019, you couldn’t walk through the streets of South Africa without hearing AmaPiano’s sunny melodies seeping into the air from car windows and phone speakers.
“If you put one hundred guys in a room and you asked them where AmaPiano started, you’ll get one hundred answers and some very heated debates,” said Siphiwe Ngwenya, cofounder of Born in Soweto, a home-grown label that’s backed AmaPiano since its early days.
Indeed, tracing the AmaPiano sound back to a single artist (or 10 for that matter) is almost impossible. The list of producers attached to AmaPiano reads like a small town’s phone directory, a by-product of a movement that developed in the annals of the internet. Still, in the three years the genre’s been around, artists like Kabza de Small and Mfr Souls have emerged as key players, inspiring a new crop of DIY beat makers and DJs.
The genre’s popularity with bedroom producers may also have something to do with its well-established sonic lineage. AmaPiano’s sound is somewhat, though not entirely, influenced by kwaito—a mid-tempo, lyrically rich brew of R&B, hip-hop, and house that emerged from Gauteng in the ’90s. Both genres combine the drum patterns and basslines of their 4/4 cousins, but AmaPiano carries a cheery brightness—characterized by jazz-inflected keys, eager vocal cuts, and organ licks constructed over a laid-back 115 bpm framework—that kwaito lacks.
South African DJ and radio host DJ Da Kruk attributes the success of AmaPiano to a wider DJ culture. “The AmaPiano movement has a huge mixtape culture attached to it, which I think was a vehicle to move new music from one ear to the next while promoting your DJ skills and mixing capabilities.” Da Kruk has been on the scene for years and hosts his own radio show dedicated to AmaPiano. He’s watched it balloon into a movement, as has Miz Dee—a DJ and one of the leading female figures in South Africa’s dance community. Throughout her career, she’s witnessed the trends in dance music change from the early days of Afro house to the more recent techno-leaning gqom.
“AmaPiano is now by far the most talked about and the most relevant house music genre in South Africa,” Miz Dee told For the Record. “It’s a culture of its own.” And the genre isn’t contained within the borders of one country anymore. Its influence is spreading like ink in water to Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
Now, it doesn’t matter what city you’re in or club you’re going to. Everyone seemingly responds to AmaPiano’s shimmering sound, and Da Kruk believes in its inclusivity. “I was fortunate to see the impact of kwaito music and what it meant for the then-young democracy that South Africa was. It became the voice of local youth to push for systematic change and fight the exclusion of the marginalized. I can’t help but think that AmaPiano is doing just that so far for this generation of young South Africans, and I can’t wait to see how many more boundaries it’ll break.”
Maybe it was the unique yet accessible sound of AmaPiano that drew throngs to its beats, or the influence of social media. Maybe it was the sheer output of new songs—a veritable deluge—that never allowed attention to falter. Whatever the reason, AmaPiano isn’t going anywhere. It has transformed into a culture with its own festivals, club nights, and (specifically in Mzansi) its own form of dance.
Check out AmaPiano Grooves—Spotify’s recently launched playlist—for a celebratory crash course in South Africa’s home-grown brand of house.
Top 10 LockDown Mix Winners of The Quarantine Season
The term Desperate times call for desperate measures looks to have held through in the South African music industry throughout the challenging times of the deadly corona virus or COVID-19 pandemic.
The entire world looks to have crumbled to the effects of the corona virus which has now been officially tagged COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (W.H.O) after it began to spread from Wuhan, China in late 2019.
Upon spreading to all the countries of the world bar a tiny few islands, every facet of human existence as we knew looks to have taken a different turn and might never remain the same.
One of such measures taken to combat the spread of infections is the global lockdown phenomenon which shut down the wheels of many economies as well as the wheels of normal business operations.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21 day lockdown in March and one which came with a world of uncertainty at the time.
“From midnight on Thursday, March 26 until midnight on Thursday, April 16, all South Africans will have to stay at home,” the President stated.
Yet, for players and playmakers of the South African music industry, it has been business as usual as they have rallied together to get music fans through this period and ensure the party never stops even from the comfort of their homes and while observing the social distancing protocol.
Now and as the Rainbow Nation begins lifting of lockdown to ease severe economic pain, we pay tribute to some of the most consistent Disc Jockeys and Producers who lavished us with lockdown and quarantine mix episodes through those uncertain times with limited freedom of mobility.
In no particular order, these players deserve some of our love, appreciation and respect.
1. Black Coffee
In April, the international Disc Jockey and Producer whose real name is Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo began the Home Brewed 001 (Live Mix) and has been able to raise about half a million rand for those most in need during this crisis. He has remained consistent with the series ever since.
2. DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small
Regarded as the Scorpion Kings, the terrific duo banished the ghosts of having to postpone their mother of all concerts initially slated for April 20th at the Sun Arena.
Then, they went all lethal with a marathon of releases including the “Scorpion Kings Exclusive Live Mix” which has now become a part of the culture as well as world of project and single deliveries too numerous to mention.
Ashley Raphala as a Disc Jockey and Producer needs no introduction. However, he remains one of those acts who never faltered with several appearances to make magic of the “Lockdown House Party Mix” series. He’s definitely earned his badge.
4. Major League DJz
Twin brothers Bandile and Banele have simply earned their rights, status and quality in the world of Amapiano music despite initial disapproval of their crossover from the streets of SA Hip Hop. It is without doubt that their “Amapiano Live Balcony Mix” series has simply become one of the genre’s biggest movements.
5. Vigro Deep
Regarded as one of Mzansi’s most talented teenagers, Kamogelo Phetla has simply refused to leave the decks and turntables with a world of terrific premieres as well as the constant feature on the “LockDown House Party (Ziyawa Amapiano).” He duly deserves his spot on this list.
6. DBN Gogo
With such deliveries as “LockDown House Party”, “Quarantine Session 1”, and “Mayonice” with Jobe London, Makhanj, and The LowKeys you definitely do not need any further clarifications as to the reason why DBN Gogo whose real name is Mandisa Radebe makes the cut as one of the winners of this challenging season.
Industry legend, Oscar Sibonginkosi Mdlongwa of the Kalawa Jazmee Fame simply rolled back the years with his “Legend Live Sessions” through this difficult season and has managed to bring on fellow industry heavyweights such as DJ Zinhle, DJ Fresh, DJ Sumbody, Vigro Deep and others. In fact, the village inspired has become a weekly event and might just become mainstream even post corona.
8. Dlala Thukzin
Making a case for the Gqom genre, this uber-gifted Disc Jockey and Producer has been keeping up with the grind with several lock down mix episodes as well as his now trending “Quarantine Party Mix” which he looks to have inspired an entire battalion and army of fans out of.
9. Da Capo
Nicodimas Sekheta Mogashoa needs no introduction but his genius on the decks and turntables further solidifies his clout and status. He’s managed to stand tall by delivering some of the lockdown mix efforts in recent times; achieving wins and victories by some impressive margins each time.
10. DJ FeezoL
Justin Chad off the plains of Ceres, Western Cape might have been deeply plugged into the mix movement prior to the lockdown, he simply stepped up his game for his loyal army of followers with movement and freedom restrictions. One new popular venture of his is the “Facebook Live Mix” sessions which has proven to be very popular.
While we definitely must have omitted several acts who have brought musical joy and succour through this lockdown season, we at Hitvibes would like to thank in particular all those beatmakers for their dedication and excellence.
Do you think some others should have made the list? Please, do join the conversation with your thoughts and opinion in the comments section below.
2019: DJ Arch Jnr Owned The Show
When you’re a bag of talent, the world cannot help but stand up for you. This scenario plays out with DJ Arch Jnr who just at seven years old flew the Mzansi flag high on several occasions this year, and will definitely replicate greater feats come 2020.
Recall that little DJ Arch began his journey when he won the hearts of SA, grabbing the SA’s Got Talent crown in 2015.
At the America Got’s Talent in January 2019, little Arch gave a performance that left the hearts of many melting like candles.
Even the likes of Simon Cowell from the show said after Arch Jnr’s set, “You and I need to be talking after this show because I got plans for you,”
Determined to continue his world domination, lil Arch headed to China in April to perform at World’s Got Talent.
The prodigy was selected along with over 30 other acts from the ‘Got Talent’ franchise, across the world to perform on the show. And he raised the scale high with his mighty performance.
Few months along the line, the little maestro gathered his bags and was headed towards the UK for the Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions edition in September, where he eventually clinched third place.
Just before he hit sails to the British Isle, Arch had told the Sunday Times how deejaying makes him happy.
In his words he said, “I love seeing people dance to my sets, especially when they get to see what I can do with my mixes”.
Talk about being young, brave, bold and ambitious. We definitely know 2020 is going to be hot from this one. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
2019: Q Twinz Thrills Mzansi
Q Twinz are in the news for the right reasons, ever since they made their debut appearance on the past season of reality show, Idols SA. And because of this, they’ve become fan favourites.
A trip down memory lane on the show reveals how each week the Qwabe Twins won more fans over with their singing abilities and versatility.
Fans were certain they were going to clinch the golden prize by emerging victorious at the end of the competition.
But things went south when Virginia was eliminated from the show in November. Few hours later, just after Virginia was kicked off the show, Viggy announced that she had decided to withdraw from the competition as well.
Speculations abounded shortly after Viggy’s announcement, stating that the duo may have been bullied out of the show.Q Twinz – Hamba ft. DJ Tira
But HOD of PR and publicity of M-Net’s local entertainment channels, Philly Kubheka dismissed the speculation, stating that it was Viggy’s decision to do so, which was largely supported by her family and the channel.
A few weeks on, there was also news that the twins declined an invite to be at the competition’s finale. But Laurence Qwabe, their father and spokesperson, alleged that it was a decision taken by the family and fans, and not the twins.
Despite the drama surrounding their exit from the idols, there’s no telling that the twins have a glittering future ahead of them.
Without a doubt, 2020 holds even more promise for the uber-talented duo with the golden vocals and superb delivery abilities.
2019: DJ Maphorisa Gets His Crown & Fan Recognition
This has caused eyebrows being raised, and arguments flying in the air. But recently, it seems the majority of South Africans have agreed to his claims. Talk about attributing how good you are.
As the year is finally drawing a curtain with the last day in view, and people giving their opinions as to which song would be the “cross-over” song, many have taken to social media and taken time to acknowledge Maphorisa’s contribution to music this year.
And because of his antecedents, he makes it on the trend list, with the producer getting a resounding nod for making sure people enjoy 2019; especially with all the hits he and Kabza composed this year.
Though he’s swelling up with the praises coming left and right, Maphorisa has received a fair share of criticism from people who said he was riding Kabza’s wave and “overworking” him.
Seeming unfazed, in July Maphorisa shared on Twitter that the hate would not stop his shine.
He tweeted: “Everyone wants a piece of Scorpion Kings. Haters want it down on platforms. Guys are jealous (of me), saying I am using Kabza. Why all this hate while everyone loves this project? Since Kabza started working with me has he ever missed a gig? So we don’t deserve it?”
Eternity for recognition or not from Mzansi, there’s no telling he deserves it.
2019: Year of Kelly Khumalo and Chad Da Don’s Whirlwind Romance
The fairytale about romance is that it would last for eternity. Such was the buzz of Kelly Khumalo and Chad Da Don’s romance, which we believed would last for a lifetime, even when it was dying sometime ago, and was later revived.
The start of 2019 was celebrated by the lovebirds in a bright and shining manner, with their romance as a solid rock. Kelly stated having found her missing piece and the couple often referred to each other as husband and wife.
But shortly after, speculations had it that all was not well, and that trouble had surfaced in paradise. This followed as a result of all their loved-up pictures on social media being deleted.
Chad gave a confirmation to the split and was rather emotional, telling Drum Magazine that Kelly was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
He remarked, “We split up but there are no bad vibes. Her husband-to-be is out there somewhere and I will also find my wife one day. I’ve been through a lot and Kelly’s love was medicinal … My heart feels sore but there is no pain God cannot cure. Kelly and I had a good run. We were blessed with a great time but now it’s over,”
A month thereafter, they were together again, and were obviously “engaged”, with Chad spoiling his queen with a massive rose-coloured ring made of gold.
Sadly, a dramatic twist revealed that the romance had since died between the two, when in November fans were left in shook, when the rapper introduced Mzansi to his new bae and things have not remained the same ever since.