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Amapiano: How this South African Sound Has Become One of the Hottest New Music Genres  

Starting in South Africa’s club scene around 2012, Amapiano is a musical genre that features a lot of soul and a great beat. During the COVID pandemic, it soared in popularity thanks in part to TikTok dance challenges, and it continues to attract a global audience. While its popularity is unquestioned, the birth of Amapiano — which means “the pianos” in South Africa’s Zulu language — is often the subject of debate. Some argue the infectious sound is rooted in Kwaito, a style of music which blended house beats with hip hop in the 1990s. Music producer, record label owner, and Kwaito pioneer Oscar Sibonginkosi Mdlongwa, known as Oskido, says Kwaito emerged following a period of political change, that saw the release of Nelson Mandela and the decline of apartheid. “The younger generation at that time, we started creating our own music, which we called Kwaito. We used to take house music, slow it down and from there, we reprogrammed the music,” he says. Fast forward two decades and Amapiano emerges. It features the same slowed-down house beats as Kwaito, but also incorporates jazz, synths and percussive basslines.