OPINION | Amapiano isn't for those who have ''jumped' ship — let the new kids shine

29 August 2021 - 08:00 By deepika naidoo
Should we leave amapiano to the experts?
Should we leave amapiano to the experts?
Image: DJ Maphorisa/ Twitter

The popularity of amapiano is already well established globally. It took a while for that to happen. Now it seems like everyone wants a slice of the pie, but perhaps “everyone” should leave amapiano to those who stuck with the genre from day one ... you know those who truly value it?

Don't get me wrong, amapiano is probably the best thing to come from SA soil since the Cullinan diamond and Mrs Ball's chutney. It's dynamic, fun, and gets groove pumping. Arguably, it's one of SA's best takes on house music and partygoers know this.

In fact, local and international audiences are totes feeling the yanos. So much so that UK singer Jorja Smith also jumped onto the yanos vibe recently.

Her song All Of That with Ghanaian producer GuiltyBeatz was intended to show the world the effect of amapiano. Still, it did everything except that for the originators of the genre: it felt to most local amapiano artists like another version of expropriation ... without compensation.

To the people who “home brewed” the genre, Jorja's take was labelled “a distorted version of amapiano”. It lacked SA authenticity plus SA artists who cultivated the genre should be getting more recognition for their contributions and should have been “consulted” at the very least.

After the release of Jorja's single, many of the biggest names in amapiano, like DJ Maphorisa, took to social media to criticise the direction and approach the two international artists decided to take. 

See ... amapiano is a nuanced genre. Offshoots from deep house, jazz and kwaito music using high-pitched piano melodies low tempo 90s house rhythms and percussions. And while music is a universal language, able to connect all humans, for us in Mzansi the sound evokes a deep sense of nostalgia. With the genre being so specific, it's very difficult for us to divorce ourselves from those who pioneered the genre.

That is why Jorja's claims on amapiano are futile without considering those who carefully crafted what we can enjoy at the jol.

But considering all this, can we even say that for all SA artists it's free game when it comes to the genre? A couple of months ago, Prince Kaybee said that we should rather leave amapiano to the actual amapiano kids instead of people who have jumped ship from their genre.

We have seen a lot of hip-hop artists and some artists from other genres hop onto the amapiano wave to make a song or two and even albums who make claims of being amapiano stars. But is this just a trend for SA artists as well, who may easily discard the genre?

That is definitely not the case with all our favourites. Former hip-hop artist Focalistic decided to leave that life behind and ride the amapiano wave until the end, with his song Ke Star still a major hit since it came out in 2019. Just recently, we have seen the likes of Cassper Nyovest come out with his album Short and Sweet 2.0, Boity's The She Can Anthem, AKA and Costa Titch sample amapiano beats on their latest single Super Soft. It looks like everyone in SA is riding the wave and will be getting a souvenir saying ''Hi, I  dabbled in Amapiano once and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”.

Look, I am not trying to say that SA should gatekeep amapiano to the point where no-one can even attempt to make a song in the genre. There shouldn't be only five people who are ''ordained'' or deemed worthy of amapiano. We should be actively looking to seek growth for the genre, to see amapiano reach new heights that couldn't be reached before ... by allowing the “new kids” to have their time in the spotlight and inspire the various directions this genre could morph into.

We should be careful not to allow ourselves to reach a point where we would be inundated with amapiano, almost diluting and subsequently hurting the beauty of the genre?

It is often said that imitation is the highest and most sincere form of flattery, but that flattery is denying actual amapiano kings and queens from putting bread on the table. Being a young genre, amapiano has already been through so much emotionally after the passing of legends Mpura and Killer Kau; we should be working towards preserving the unique sound and helping the genre. Not giving everyone a slice until the amapiano cats are left with crumbs.

And even if SA artists don't owe anything to artists and don't necessarily have to credit other artists when creating your own song in the genre, it feels like we will be left with an almost repetitive and redundant catalogue of music that — let's be real — will have us sick by the end of it all.

Sometimes we need to accept that not everyone should be doing whatever they want when it comes to jumping ship to another genre. You have the right to do so, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good for the future of creating music.

Amapiano is for everyone, but at the same time, not everyone is capable of doing it justice.