Amapiano is a South African house music style that started in mid-2010. It combines deep house, jazz, lounge music, synthesizers, and big percussive basslines. High-pitched piano melodies, Kwaito basslines, and low-tempo 1990s South African house rhythms define this genre. Amapiano also incorporates percussions from another local house subgenre called Tribal house.

Amapiano Origins

Indeed one can find the roots of the Amapiano genre in the Kwaito genre. Kwaito is an Afro Pop style that includes musical elements from the Zulu tradition. Zulu is a highly respected culture in South Africa, and its music has influenced several South African music genres. Some include Gqom, which Amapiano now dominates.

Amapiano’s early popularity was explicitly in the townships, where locals performed it in bars and taverns throughout Gauteng. Before becoming popular and listed in streaming services like Deezer and Spotify, fans circulated the sound underground through messaging applications. This distribution method is typical in South African dance music communities.

Notable Musicians

Samthing Soweto and Moonchild’s Sanelly are the first South African musicians to release songs in the Amapiano style. The feedback the audience gave them was also very positive. South African rapper Sho Madjozi, whose second home is Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, also released early Amapiano songs. DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small, MFR Souls, and De Mthuda recently made Amapiano the public anthem for South Africa. Then Madjozi was proof that this was the genre to consider.

The Scorpion Kings’ record cooperation between DJ Maphoriza and Kabza De Small – both DJs-cum-producers – provided the industry with a crucial paradigm change. The collaboration demolished myths, denials, and human constraints concerning Amapiano, and it became the most popular South African musical composition. In Zimbabwe, acclaimed musician Sha Sha, born in Mutare, has become the country’s eye candy owing to her prowess in the genre, and people now call her the “Amapiano Queen.” Her song “Woza” achieved a million views in three months since its release.

The Log Drum

The sound of the log drum is one of the most distinctive sounds associated with the Amapaino genre. A log drum, also known as a slit drum, is a hollow percussion instrument constructed often of bamboo or wood with one or more slits to enhance resonance. Most slit drums contain three “H”-shaped slits each. The drum will create two distinct pitches if the resulting tongues are, as is typical, of different lengths or thicknesses.

The natives often create a resonating chamber for the sound vibrations produced when you strike the tongues by closing the ends of a slit with a mallet. The resonating chamber presents the sound the tongue makes through an open port which amplifies its loudness. The instrument will be more effective and louder if the resonating chamber is the right size for the pitch the tongue generates. This implies it should have the proper airspace to complete one sonic wave for that specific pitch.

Particularly in Vanuatu, people carve big logs in the shape of “totems” and hollow them out in the middle, leaving just a slit running down the front. When you strike on the exterior with sticks, this hollowed-out wood produces the rich resonance of these drums.

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