Amapiano, a Nguni word loosely translated to "the pianos", is a subgenre of kwaito and house music that emerged in South Africa in the mid-2010s. It is a hybrid of deep house, jazz, and lounge music characterized by synths and wide, percussive basslines.


There is ambiguity and debate concerning its origins, with various accounts of the musical styles in the Johannesburg townships. Because it has a small similarities with Bacardi,[1] some people assert the genre began in Pretoria but it remains uncertain.[2][3][4] Various accounts as to who formed the popular genre make it impossible to accurately pinpoint its origins.[5]

The word amapiano is a IsiZulu or IsiXhosa, or dipiano is a word loosely translated to "the pianos",[6] The genre is mostly sang in Zulu and Xhosa, Sotho, Setswana, Xitsonga, one of South Africa's native tongues.


Amapiano is a subgenre of house and kwaito music.[7] It is a hybrid of deep house, jazz, and lounge music characterised by synths and wide percussive basslines.[8]

Amapiano is distinguished by high-pitched piano melodies, kwaito from South Africa basslines, low tempo 1990s South African house rhythms and percussions from another local subgenre of house known as tribal house.[9]

An important element of the genre is the prevalent use of the "log drum", a wide percussive bassline, which was popularised by producer MDU aka TRP. According to amapiano pioneer Kabza De Small:

I don't know what happened. I don't know how he figured out the log drum. Amapiano music has always been there, but he's the one who came up with the log drum sound. These boys like experimenting. They always check out new plug-ins. So when MDU figured it out, he ran with it.[10]

The use of percussive basslines in South African house music predates amapiano, and was possibly pioneered by kwaito producer M’Du (also known as Mdu Masilela.) [11]

Subgenres and fusion


Not to be confused with Ọjà or Piano.

Ojapiano is a fusion of the traditional Igbo instrument Ọjà and sub genre of amapiano which emerged in Nigeria in the early 2020s. The term was coined by Kcee in the 2020s. There have been several pioneers of the genre since its emergence including Kcee, Snazzy the Optimist, Oxlade and renowned American pop rock band OneRepublic.[12][13][14][15]


In 2019, the genre experienced increased popularity across the African continent, with noted increases in digital streams and chart successes in countries far from its South African origin.[16][1]

In 2021, an awards ceremony was created that was dedicated to the genre, the South Africa Amapiano Music Awards.[17]

In 2022, the American online music store Beatport added the genre to its platform with its own dedicated charts and playlists.[18]

The genre was popular amongst young people on social media platforms, where videos using amapiano music were uploaded, which fueled the dancing scene in South Africa.[19]

Amapiano music has always been dominated mainly by men. Social media users in South Africa are constantly fighting to change the narratives about how they helped the country advance.[20] In October 2023, the amapiano song "Water" by South African singer Tyla gained international prominence following a viral Bacardi dance challenge on social media.[21] It became the first song by a South African soloist to enter the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 55 years,[22] and was a top 10 hit in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand, where it reached number one.[23]

International artists

The genre's popularity has created a proliferation internationally, where producers attempt to replicate or fuse the sound with other genres for their next hit. Examples of such is Nigerian artist Davido's "Champion Sound" with South African artist Focalistic. This track was a major hit that led to the surge of Nigerian artists attempting to use the south African sound. The track "Monalisa" by Lojay featuring Chris Brown contains the signature "log drum", also known as the slit drum and other amapiano percussive elements.[24]

The "Top 50 - Nigeria" Spotify chart contains a plethora of amapiano-inspired songs. Some of the songs are explicitly titled amapiano, such as "Amapiano" by Asake featuring Olamide.[25] This has led to a misconception in the United States that amapiano originates from Nigeria. This can be seen in a recent tweet by American artist Swae Lee, where he tweeted the Nigerian flag, alongside the words "Wait till y'all hear Swae Lee on Amapiano [sic]".[26]

South Korean girl group Le Sserafim took inspiration from amapiano for their track "Smart" off of their third EP, Easy.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Selaluke, Stephen (29 August 2020). "Bacardi music back due to popular demand". The Citizen. Retrieved 2 July 2021.[dead link]
  2. ^ "Amapiano: a township sound with staying power". TimesLIVE. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  3. ^ Joyce, Liam Karabo (23 October 2019). "Meet the vocalist featured on the biggest amapiano tracks". Independent Online. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Amapiano a new movement... Period". SowetanLIVE. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Charting the Meteoric Rise of South Africa's AmaPiano". Spotify. 2 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Amapiano - what it's all about?". Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  7. ^ "The Yanos Plug: Amapiano to The World". The Yanos Plug. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  8. ^ "The 10 Best Amapiano Songs of 2019". OkayAfrica. 17 December 2019. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  9. ^ Prspct (21 November 2018). "New age house music: the rise of "amapiano"". Archived from the original on 4 March 2020. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Kabza De Small and MDU aka TRP set to release 50-track album [listen]", retrieved 10 January 2022
  11. ^ "How Far Can Amapiano Go?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  12. ^ Esomnofu, Emmanuel (16 June 2023). "Exploring "Ojapiano" & The Evolution of Nigeria's Most Spiritual Flute". The NATIVE. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  13. ^ Ibeh, Ifeanyi (25 March 2024). "Snazzy the Optimist Introduces Fresh Sound with New Tune 'Asa'". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 April 2024.
  14. ^ Omenye, Alex (3 November 2023). "Kcee And Oxlade Anchor on Hope In "I Pray"". The Culture Custodian (Est. 2014.). Retrieved 5 April 2024.
  15. ^ "Kcee to feature One Republic on Ojapiano remix". NotjustOk. Retrieved 5 April 2024.
  16. ^ Machaieie, Mario (21 October 2019). "2019 The Year Of The Yanos, How Amapiano Blow up". Online Youth Magazine | Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  17. ^ Langa, Phumlani S. "Mzansi's first amapiano awards have social media abuzz". City Press. Retrieved 21 February 2023.
  18. ^ Bain, Katie (5 May 2022). "Beatport Adds South Africa's Amapiano Genre To Its Platform". Billboard. Retrieved 2 September 2022.
  19. ^ "The evolution of amapiano". The Mail & Guardian. 19 September 2022. Retrieved 7 August 2023.
  20. ^ "5 Recognized South Africa Amapiano Female Artists". HipUpMusic. Archived from the original on 13 May 2023. Retrieved 13 May 2023.
  21. ^ Mendez II, Moises (6 October 2023). "Tyla's "Water" is Making Waves on TikTok". Time. Retrieved 1 November 2023.
  22. ^ Aradi, Gloria (10 October 2023). "South Africa's Tyla makes historic Billboard Hot 100 debut with Water". BBC News. Archived from the original on 10 October 2023. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  23. ^ "Water (Tyla song)", Wikipedia, 1 November 2023, retrieved 1 November 2023
  24. ^ "South Africa: Lojay and Sarz on the making of 'Monalisa' & their blend of Afrobeats and Amapiano". 21 October 2019. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  25. ^ "5 Top 50 - Nigeria". Spotify. Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  26. ^ @SwaeLee (11 July 2023). "Wait till y'all hear Swae Lee on Amapiano" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ Delgado, Sara (22 February 2024). "LE SSERAFIM Talk New Mini-Album "Easy" & Coachella 2024 Plans". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 28 February 2024.