African Music Culture

History Of Amapiano Now Topping South Africa’s Music Charts

Sha Sha
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Music is a big thing in Africa and there is a new kid on the block now ruling the airwaves from South Africa; the Amapiano genre. It is the new house music in the southern part of the continent and beyond.

In 2019, Amapiano went big and became the in-thing for 2020 as DJs and artists brought themselves to the glory of the deep fusion of different South African sounds characterized by a clear rhythm and beats.

Amapiano genre traces its roots back to Kwaito which was an Afro Pop genre-blending musical beats from Zulu folklore. Zulu is a revered culture in South Africa and its sounds have inspired several music genres in South Africa including gqom which has been overshadowed by Amapiano.

The fame and glory of Amapiano started in the Pretoria neighbourhood of South Africa in 2016. It was another statement to make for Pretoria which geographically lies outside Johannesburg (J’burg) South Africa’s capital. The continuous piano keys in the music, deep bass, a touch of jazz and percussions from the Zulu kind of music clearly define Amapiano.

The ‘piano’ elements play out through the genre which is what inspired its naming while “ama” is a Zulu word signifying its roots.

With its traction in the industry hitherto, there is no doubt that Amapiano is here for the long run. Each day, it morphs into a bigger sound and draws more renowned musicians into it.

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Before it went full-blown in 2019, Amapiano was so popular in the neighbourhoods of Gauteng. House parties were the launching pads for Amapiano which through different producers and DJs, was fine-tuned to become the great sound it is today.

Samthing Soweto and Moonchilds Sanelly were among the first South African artists to release an Amapiano-genre song and the reception was terrific. From there, South African Rapper Sho Madjozi whose second home is Dar es Salaam, Tanzania came out with an Amapiano track.

Madjozi was a testament that this was the genre to think about thereby, making Amapiano the next anthem for South Africa which took the country by storm with the entry of the revered DJ Maphorisa, Kabz De Small, MFR Souls, De Mthuda among others.

For the better part of 2020 when the world was battling a deadly first wave of Covid-19, South African charts were topped by Amapiano songs, thanks to the efforts of Dj Maphorisa, Kabz De Small, MFR Souls who went against boycott tide by artists in South Africa who quickly wished away the genre.

The Scorpion Kings album collaboration between DJ Maphoria and Kabz De Small – both DJs-cum-producers – brought the paradigm shift needed in the industry. The collabo broke myths, denials and human limits about Amapiano; it emerged to be the most successful musical work put together by South African entertainers.


Scorpion Kings explored to depth the feeling of Amapiano music with the flawless piano on the play, deep jazz, fast percussion and electronic fusion. From the collaboration, “Emcimbini” emerged to be the biggest commercially viable song in the land.

From house parties to radio stations and clubs, the pioneers of Amapiano have hit a jackpot with flavorful music, something that Samthing Soweto attests to with his “Akulakeki” hit from Isphithiphithi album.

In Zimbabwe, celebrated artiste Sha Sha who was born in Mutare has become the country’s eye candy due to her prowess in the genre and even christened the “Amapiano Queen”. Her song “Woza” hit a million views in three months since its release.

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‘Woza’ defines and tells of the greatness of Amapiano in a perfect setting of Southern Africa’s deserts with canyons on display but the sounds dilutes it all and bring in an ecstatic-kind of feeling. Sha Sha who seems to have moved to Amapiano full time confessed to having been influenced to the Amapiano by genre by DJ Maphorisa and Kabz De Small in one of her rounds in Johannesburg where she lives.

Before she releases ‘Woza’ Sha Sha controlled the airwaves with ‘First Lady’.


As history about the Amapiano genre continues to draw interest from music enthusiasts, MFR Souls take credit for the naming of the genre and their relentless efforts in pushing it to the mainstream.

Before the big break in 2019, very few radio stations played Amapiano music but persistence and a window by Y FM to play all Amapiano music during the “Amapiano Hour” made a lot of difference.


Live AMP brought the break after televising a real-time DJ mix of Amapiano. It struck the entertainment industry hard and curiosity began leading to more Amapiano releases which were then widely shared on social media platforms.

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