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African music is incredibly diverse and inclusive, with regionally specific styles dominating the scene. As efforts are made to introduce African music to new audiences outside of the continent, it’s important for everyone to understand the major differences between the various genres, particularly when it comes to mainstream African styles such as Afrobeats and Amapiano.
It’s worth noting that despite being tagged as “Afrobeats” by many music enthusiasts in recent years, the popular music coming out of the African scene encompasses a multitude of distinct genres that shouldn’t be lumped together under one umbrella. This misconception has spread beyond Africa and led to different genres developing their own unique identities. Nevertheless, the two most widely recognized music genres in Africa are Afrobeats and Amapiano.
Afrobeats is a term used to describe music from West Africa that’s popular with people from other parts of the world. Some people confuse it with “Afrobeat,” which is a genre that started in the 1970s and was made famous by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Afrobeat is a mix of West African music, like Yoruba traditional music and highlife, with American jazz, funk, and soul.
Afrobeats is sometimes called Afropop or Afrofusion, which includes any music that falls under those categories. Even though some people argue about what to call it, most experts in African music know it when they hear it.
Amapiano is a style of house music that started in South Africa in the mid-2010s. The name means “the pianos” in Zulu or Xhosa. It’s characterized by synths and basslines that give it a deep house, jazz, and lounge feel. The music is also defined by high-pitched piano melodies, Kwaito basslines, slow-moving South African house rhythms from the 1990s, and Tribal house-inspired percussions. Amapiano is distinct from most African styles because of its unique sound.
The origins of Amapiano, a popular music genre in South Africa, are the subject of much debate and confusion. Some people describe it as a mix of different musical genres from Johannesburg slums like Soweto, Alexandra, Vosloorus, and Katlehong. Others claim that it originated in Pretoria and is similar to a genre called Bacardi. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact founders of the genre because of conflicting accounts.
One key feature of Amapiano is the use of a broad percussive bassline known as the “log drum,” which is credited to MDU alias TRP. Some people have suggested that Kwaito, another South African genre, is the origin of Amapiano. However, Major League DJz and Uncle Vinny have argued that Bacardi had a greater influence on the mainstream Amapiano produced today. Township Funk, a song by one of Bacardi’s pioneers, DJ Mujava, bears many similarities to Amapiano.
Unlike other genres, Amapiano is dominated by producers and is a highly collaborative environment. Major League DJz, for example, have worked with LuuDaDeejay and praise their work. Although Amapiano originated in South Africa, it has spread across the continent and is now being used by Nigerian producers and musicians.
The Nigerian house music scene, which heavily influenced Amapiano, has been around for a while. Niniola, known as the “Queen of Afro House,” was a contestant on Project Fame West Africa in 2013. While she didn’t always perform in the Amapiano genre, her collaboration with acclaimed producer Sarz helped create a new sound that eventually attracted a limited but devoted audience.
Have you heard of the new subgenre of music that blends Afrobeats and Amapiano? It’s called Afro-fusion, and it’s becoming increasingly popular in cities like Accra, Lagos, and Johannesburg. This unique fusion combines the fast-paced rhythms of Afrobeats with the memorable mid-tempo beats of Amapiano in a single song. Although this music style doesn’t yet have an official name, it’s been clearly heard in most of the Afrobeats tracks created in late 2020 and throughout this year. Amapiano music has had a significant influence on this sound, which is now charting globally.
Amapiano, although relatively new, has had a massive impact on South African music, and if it continues to grow, it could become the biggest rival to Afrobeats on the African continent. Kabza De Small, a record producer from Pretoria, has been dubbed the King of Amapiano, and he has collaborated with DJ Maphorisa and worked with some of the biggest stars in Afrobeats, including Burna Boy and Wizkid. Other notable musicians who have helped spread Amapiano around the world include De Mthuda, MFR Souls, and Major League DJz, who have performed throughout the US and Europe.
That’s a great summary of the differences between Amapiano and Afrobeats. Amapiano’s focus on dance and its popularity in South Africa has certainly helped its rise to prominence, while Afrobeats’ longevity and international recognition have made it a staple in the African music industry.
While they may serve different purposes, both genres have their own unique qualities that make them beloved by fans around the world.
Despite the fact that Amapiano is still a relatively new genre, it has managed to gain a significant following not only in South Africa but also across the African continent and beyond. Amapiano’s popularity has been boosted by the rise of streaming platforms such as YouTube and Spotify, which have made it easier for music fans to access and discover new music.
Another factor that has contributed to Amapiano’s success is its ability to evolve and adapt to different styles and sounds. This has allowed it to remain relevant and appeal to a broader audience beyond South Africa. Amapiano’s collaborative nature has also played a role in its success, with producers and artists from different countries and genres coming together to create unique sounds and styles.
In conclusion, Amapiano is a unique genre that has emerged from the townships of South Africa and has gained popularity across the African continent and beyond. Its distinctive sound and danceability have made it a favorite among music lovers and a significant contributor to the African music industry. While it may not yet have the same level of international recognition as Afrobeats, Amapiano’s rise shows no signs of slowing down, and it is likely to continue to evolve and shape the future of African music.
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