The South African genre has made its way from the streets of Pretoria and taken the world by storm. We highlight eight must-listen songs to kick-start your amapiano journey.
As the world struggled to come to terms with the Covid-19 pandemic, another viral element was slowly taking over: Amapiano. Fortunately for us, the only thing deadly about this music genre is the dance moves. As expected in the golden age of music streaming and exchange, amapiano quickly crossed boundaries and borders, spreading from South Africa where it blew up to other parts of the African continent; Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, etc.
As expected, musicians and producers from these countries have put their own spin on the sound, creating variants tailored to their local fanbases. But, if e no be panadol, e no fit be panadol; in the same vein, it is really impossible to get into the genre by listening to the watered-down, modified versions. Luckily for you, we are here to help. Here are seven songs to start your amapiano journey.
1. “Everything I Wanted (Remix)” - DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small
This smooth, bouncy track is an amapiano remix of Billie Eilish’s song of the same title. Kabza De Small is the self-proclaimed King of amapiano, and on this track, he shows mastery of the genre with this smooth cover. The song is a bonus track on the collaborative Scorpion Kings album by Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa.
2. “Vrr Phaa” - Focalistic, Vigro Deep
“Vrr Phaa” is a term used to describe the sound a speedy sports car makes when it takes off, the same way Focalistic’s career took off in 2020. Assisted by Vigro Deep’s intricate production, Focalistic’s lyrics are sparse as he opts to let the instruments do the heavy lifting on the track. We definitely do not mind, though, as the groove is excellent and gets you moving.
3. “Right Here” - Mapara A Jazz, Master KG, Soweto Gospel Choir
Take a minute to imagine amapiano in church. On a triumphant record off one of the best amapiano albums in 2020, Mapara A Jazz enlists the help of superstars Master KG and the evergreen Soweto Gospel Choir. A soft, bouncy love song with smooth hums and adlibs, “Right Here” is an excellent introduction to the amapiano genre.
4. “Shesha” - De Mthuda, Njelic
Google “cultural reset”, and De Mthuda’s “Shesha” would probably come up. Easy on the ear, De Mthuda and Njelic employ repetition as well as call and response to create a fine mood. Before this song, amapiano songs usually went all out on instrumentals from the first minute. “Shesha” was the first to start the slow build-up style we are used to now. So what better way to start listening to this genre than with a literal history-making song? As a bonus, the song is also on the soundtrack album for Coming 2 America.
5. “AmaDM” - Samthing Soweto, DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small, Mfr Souls
Amapiano is naturally an instrument-heavy music genre. Add that to playful lyrics about sliding into a beautiful girl’s DMs after seeing her on the timeline, and you have a jam on your hands. Aided by producer heavyweights DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small, and Mfr Souls, Samthing Soweto’s vocals are crisp and polished, making an excellent song.
6. “Sithi Sithi” - Reece Madlisa, Zuma, Mr JazziQ, Busta 929
One of the more upbeat songs on this list, “Sithi Sithi” Reece Madlisa and co had only one thing on their mind when making this record: dance. The drums and piano combination is bound to get you on your feet trying to imitate South Africans on Tiktok: arms on waists, arms outstretched, feet jumping from side to side, the full package.
7. “The Whistling Man” - Uncle Jo, Blaqnick, MasterBlaq
Seven minutes of drums and tambourines. 0 lyrics. Pure vibes all through. We admit that the title is a bit misleading, as no man is whistling on the track, but it makes up for the dishonesty with incredible replay value. Not too upbeat, and not too slow either; a perfectly balanced song you could either dance or study to.
8. “Abo Malume” - Leehleza, Mfr Souls
Last but not least, “Abo Malume” by Leehleza and Mfr Souls is a must-listen. Like “Sithi Sithi”, this song is anti-sitting down; it is insistent you get up and dance your heart out. Sticking to the time-tested formula of repetition and groovy drums, “Abo Malume” is a fantastic track and gateway to amapiano music. If you are looking to get hooked, this is a sure-fire way.