How Amapiano Is Taking Over Miami and the Rest of the World Beat by Beat


Note: this article was originally published in May,2023

Last Friday, Amapiano was the topic of the day as several musicians, producers, music industry executives and music lovers were gathered in Miami—a popular party city in the US’s south-eastern Florida state—to discuss the fast spreading genre.

South African Tourism, SA’s national tourism agency, put together a panel including musicians Pabi Cooper and DJ AYA, Africori’s Yoel Kenan and Devon Peterson, Jerry Mpufane, President of South African Tourism, as well as Manaileng Maphike, Attorney at Maphike Attorneys Inc., the SA law firm with which the agency collaborated to organise the event.

The panel discussion was moderated by Yolanda Sangweni, the Vice President of Programming and New Content Development at National Public Radio (NPR), a prominent American media organisation.

The panellists discussed everything from the cultural significance of Amapiano to the positive impact its global growth has had on South Africa, especially with regards to tourism.

“As Amapiano makes its way around the world, it’s another way in which South Africa’s history and culture demonstrates its global influence,” said Jerry Mpufane at the event.

Other panellists shed light on the connection between South Africa’s journey to freedom and the development of its musical styles, which acted as a channel through which people could express themselves and the depth of their experiences.

Amapiano Is Setting the World’s Dancefloors Ablaze

The trending South African music genre has seen notable success in Miami, likely owing to the fact that the highly energetic sound matches the tone of the city’s vibrant nightlife.

With the distinctive bass of the log drum, which is the foundation of the genre, unique dance moves and sporadic whistle blows all becoming something of a fixture in Miami clubs and parties, it is clear that Amapiano is on its way to becoming a household name in the party city.

Earlier this year, South African DJ duo Major League Djz and award-winning American DJ trio Major Lazer released a joint album titled “Piano Republik”. The 9-track album was a mega collaborative project—in typical Amapiano fashion—featuring musicians from the US, South Africa and Nigeria.

The collaboration was a seamless one, as Major Lazer’s electronic dance music (EDM) genre shares some common elements with Amapiano.

Amapiano, meaning “the pianos” in Zulu, has roots in deep house, kwaito, jazz and lounge music—the former two of which are subgenres of dance music.

Just like EDM, Amapiano is a genre that is largely controlled by DJs. In fact, many would even argue that DJs are more important in both genres than artistes.

In cities across the globe with nightlife scenes that are similar to Miami’s, it is easy to see how Amapiano could catch on and easily become a party favourite.

Amapiano is one genre that makes anyone want to get up and move once they hear it, regardless of their race, nationality or background.

In the words of Walshy Fire, one third of Major Lazer, “the energy is unlike anything else.”

Perhaps it was that energy the world needed to remain upbeat during the pandemic, when Major League Djz shared balcony mixes that essentially shot the genre to global limelight.

The hour-long mixes, shared on YouTube, garnered millions of views and have been credited as one of the driving forces of the initial boom of Amapiano.

Once Amapiano travelled to foreign dancefloors, its spread was quite seamless owing to the accessibility of the sound.

Afro Nation: A Celebration of African Music

The South African Tourism panel discussion set the tone for the eve of the inaugural Afro Nation Miami, the “World’s Biggest Afrobeats Festival”.

The famous annual music festival finally made its way to Miami, since its debut in Portugal in 2019.

Although it’s dubbed an Afrobeats festival, the festival actually features music stars from across Africa as well as stars of African descent from across the globe. The festival celebrates all Afro-centric music genres including Afrobeats, Amapiano and Dancehall.

Afro Nation was founded by Nigeria music executive Obi Asika and Nigerian-born British event promoter and industry expert Smade, in association with BBC Radio 1Xtra.

The festival has since been established in Ghana, Puerto Rico, Mexico and most recently, the US, kicking off with Miami and slated to take place in Detroit in August.

This year’s Afro Nation Miami featured energetic performances from Afrobeats stars like Burna Boy, Wizkid and Ckay; Amapiano stars like Major League Djz, 2021 social media sensation Uncle Waffles, Focalistic and Vigro Deep; Dancehall stars Shenseea and Mavado, amongst others.

It was held at LoanDepot Park, a stadium with a seating capacity of 37,442, on the 27th and 28th of this month.

With the formidable rise of Amapiano and Afrobeats in recent years, it is clear that the world wants to hear what Africa has to say—or sing.

However, African governments must do their part to support this move and channel more of the benefits of the genres’ growth to their own economies.

This could be achieved through direct investments, the facilitating of more music festivals with global appeal right here on African soil, and an emphasis on music-centred cultural tourism.

Jerry Mpufane’s words at the panel discussion were in line with this:

“Amapiano is born out of the soul of South Africa and they say one of the best ways to experience it to its fullest is to be where the music is. So as this genre continues to captivate global audiences, we hope it inspires them to visit South Africa and learn about the history and culture that influenced the creation of Amapiano.”

Moreso, the concerned governments would have to make sure their countries have the capacity to handle the impact of a consequent boom in the tourism industry.

Music just could be harnessed as a powerful tool to turn the tides for their economies.

Sources: South African Tourism, Miami Herald, NME


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