Africa: Is Amapiano All Washed Up?

Nigerian artists and record producers have embraced amapiano – but one music blogger says the genre that swayed on the world’s dance floors in 2022 is all washed up.

Originally a South African style of house music, amapiano is a fine blend of deep house, jazz and lounge music, distinguished by its distinct percussive bassline, also known as log drums.

Prominent South African disc jockeys like DJ Maphorisa and MRS Souls elevated the genre, which traces its roots to kwaito, and it spread like wildfire in Nigeria during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

Every new club banger appeared with the signature log drums – and amapiano became the most commercially successful genre.

2020 saw the release of Kabza De Small’s “Sponono” and “Need You Tonight”, while 2021 witnessed an array of amapiano tracks, including Focalistic’s collaborative banger featuring Davido, titled “Ke Star”, a remix of his 2020 hit single.

In 2022, artists like Asake, Burna Boy, Zinoleesky, Ckay, Young Jonn, MohBad, Omah Lay and Zlatan, among others, jumped onto the bandwagon.

And just as Nigerians owned Ghana’s azonto sound in its day, they successfully took over amapiano. Thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, people began to discover dance steps to accompany the sound.

As the sound gained acceptance, it led to the emergence (and in some cases, a rise to the limelight) of new talented producers like P.Priime, Niphkeys, Ozedikus, Rexxie and Willis, among others.

Zinoleesky became the poster boy of the genre. He achieved this with the release of his groundbreaking single titled “Kilofeshe”. He cracked the code and it became almost impossible for him to do a song without infusing amapiano into it.

But music journalists have varied views on whether amapiano will remain a prominent genre in 2023.

Music blogger Ini Arthur said: “It’s washed up. It is not a genre we created, so we cannot hold onto it for long.”

On the contrary, Peter Babayola, another Nigerian music blogger, thinks the genre still has a longer lifespan. According to him, “amapiano remains a force to be reckoned with in 2023, as the torch bearers of the genre across South Africa and Nigeria remain committed to the sound.”

Basing his argument on its receptiveness and consistency, he added: “Their consistency in dishing out hit after hit, as well as the receptiveness of the audience(s) across the world, gives one the confidence to say that amapiano is here to stay.”

Akoh, a music A&R, accused Nigerian DJs of being inert and not doing enough research. “Nigerian DJs are comfortable, and they do not do research into new sounds. And because the demand is there, which cannot even meet the supply, it has made them complacent.

“Even if they’re going to switch from the conventional amapiano sound we know today, they’ll probably revert to Afro-house, which in itself is a sub-genre of amapiano.”

Acknowledging the power social media, especially TikTok, has on influencing the music the younger generation listens to, they all agree that it could shape (and inadvertently remodel) what we could witness in 2023.

Pictured above: Zinoleesky, all in yellow

Image source: @ZinoleeskyWorld


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