How Amapiano made its way across Africa and to the UK - Bubblegum Club

How Amapiano made its way across Africa and to the UK

Amapiano unequivocally has an iron-clad stronghold on South African dance floors. The genre dominates the airwaves and it rules South Africa’s streaming market. More so, the potent drum lines and rhythms of Amapiano are no longer confined within the country’s borders. For the past two to three years, the genre has travelled to Nigeria where plenty of high-profile and influential musicians have experimented with the sound.

On her last album, Colours and Sounds, Niniola gave us songs like “Addicted”, “Look like Me”, and “Oh Sharp” while Tiwa Savage also did an Amapiano remix to “Dangerous Love “ on her internationally acclaimed album, Celia. Rema had a chart-topping hit single in “Woman” and Davido featured on the remix to Focalistic’s mega splash hit, “Ke Star” that has been streamed over two million times on Spotify and has been viewed over four million times on YouTube.

These are just a few examples of how the genre has become a big part of Nigeria’s music scene. The integration of the sound into Afrobeats has spawned a new genre called “Afropiano” or “Gengepiano.”

The popularity of Amapiano in Nigeria has extended into the United Kingdom due to its large diaspora. Artists like Vigro Deep and Kabza De Small have been booked for festivals and gigs in Britain, and the likes of DBN Gogo and DJ Maphorisa have done Amapiano sets for big radio stations like BBC Radio 1Xtra. More and more UK artists are experimenting with the sound. One of the most recognisable figures in the Grime and R&B scene Donae’O has also taken a swing at playing with the genre. His new record, “She Belongs to the Night” is a clean Amapiano track and he enlisted the services of DJ Supa D and Mr Taffa to bring the song to life. Speaking on the record, he says:

I’ve been listening to DJ sets from DJ Supa D and DJ Pioneer throughout lockdown and I loved the new sound they were playing. As I dug deeper into it I found out that they were playing a mixture of Afro House and South African House which sounded similar to UK Funk so, obviously, I fell in love with the culture of this music.

UK singer-songwriter, Valee Music’s lead single for her upcoming project, “Don’t Want Your Love” is a textbook Amapiano track. After hearing the music for the first time, she was inspired and energized. So much so, she decided to give it a go. She states,

I think the first time I heard Amapiano was when I listened to ‘Emcimbini’. I know that there are a lot of Amapiano songs made before it but that’s the song that did it for me. It made me feel quite excited and nostalgic. It made me feel like I was in a different realm. I grew up listening to house so when I heard Amapiano, I loved it and identified with it and so I wanted to make my own song.

Like Donae’O, she believes that the reason the genre has become big and resonates deeply within the UK scene is because of how similar it is to UK funk. And the genre has the potential to grow further. As more and more artists dig their teeth into it, the more it will become a popular sound within Britain. Valee Music says:

I think it was a natural transition. Afrobeats has been doing so well for so many years and the thing about being [on this] side [of the world], there is always a hunger for something fresh. We had a time where American R&B was the go-to sound in the ‘90s and then we had bashment, we had reggae and funk before we got into West Africa with the Afrobeats style. So it was only natural that Southern African music would be next. Now everyone is going crazy for the sound here and amapiano is rising and more artists are delving into the sound. It’s still fairly new but we’re starting to see a lot more collaboration and growth of the genre. 

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