The first quarter of 2023 has come and gone swiftly, not without a slew of amapiano’s most respected producers releasing full-length albums that run the gamut from dark and bassy, to balmy, bouncy and bright. Must-listens range from Mellow & Sleazy’s Midnight in Sunnyside 2 and Stakev and Kabza De Small’s Rekere, to DJ Stokie’s My Journey Continues, as well as Josiah De Disciple’s Sounds of Gomorra Volume 2 and Kwiish SA’s Back to Black, all standing out for their unique takes on the sound. Mas Musiq has also just released the zero-skip Nini na Nini as he teams up with Kelvin Momo on his UK debut, just as Uncle Waffles makes history with an galvanizing set at Coachella’s mainstage in the wake of her new album Asylum. It’s clear that the sound many wrote off as “just a phase” is strong as ever years later, with the debate around whether or not sounds made without South African artists can be classified as amapiano, ongoing. The dream would be to make the sound truly pan-African and have everyone from across the continent attributing its originators and feasting on this intriguingly beautiful sound – but until the gavel falls on that, here are 10 tracks that stood out continent wide, both inspired and inspirational, January through April.
Mellow & Sleazy, Myztro, QuayR Muziq, ShaunMuziq, FTears, XDuppy – Bhebha
One of the most dominant trending tracks of the quarter sporting Carvelas, Ultramel and Quantums galore, “Bhebha” was an all hands on deck affair, with XDUppy, QuayR Muziq and diligent dabblers FTears and Shaunmusiq, who flexed last year on hits “Tobetsa” and “uShaka” alike. Amongst a lot of confusion around what this sound is, from “Quantum Sound” to Bacardi, to straight up amapiano, the guys agree that they’re on “a new wave” with this one, with an EP well in the works set for release later this year.
TOSS, Young Stunna, Tyler ICU – Tetema
Two of amapiano’s most recognisable voices come together for a rousing street anthem in “Tetema.” Not to be confused with Diamond Platnumz and Rayvanny’s monster hit of the same name, the waist-winding, shirtless “Umlando” hitmaker in TOSS and PianoHub silver tongued Young Stunna have both enjoyed a bountiful 2022, becoming indelible fixtures at home and abroad. With skilled producer Tyler ICU providing a beat the two cruise on effortlessly, this was bound to be an unforgettable collaboration.
Asake – 2:30
The last year has seen Nigerian trailblazer Asake do some amazing things with his amapiano-inspired Afro-fusion, and while it must be said that amapiano is more than just a sprinkling of log drums, “2:30” carries euphoric chord progressions and pinball percussives, giving it a definite warmth that’s been evident in amapiano’s arsenal. Should Asake be on this list at all? Does the saying “if it’s not made in the region of South Africa, it’s just sparkling house” apply? What’s interesting to note is that many outside South Africa don’t see amapiano as house music in the first place, which may complicate – or simplify – the issue, depending on who you ask… Either way, Asake and his sort are undeniable.
DJ 808, Peruzzi, Caltonic SA – Cover Me
Nigerian DJ 808 teams up with mega singer-songwriter Peruzzi, as well as South African producer Caltonic SA for “Cover Me” the first single off the newcomer’s debut album. Caltonic SA has long been a local favorite, especially since his NTS Amapiano Now banger “Super Star” and Focalistic and Davido’s “Champion Sound”– and it’s encouraging to see a rising star embraced by such a seasoned act as Peruzzi on this leg of his journey.
Davido, Musa Keys – Unavailable
Speaking of Davido, another breezy collaboration comes in he and Musa Keys’ “Unavailable,” where producer Magicsticks shows off the skill that made Asake’s “Mr Money” the gem that it is. Congrats goes out to Musa Keys, also known as the “Tsongsa Michael Jackson”, who’s claimed a triple platinum single in the last few weeks with “Kancane”; and we’re super happy for Davido as he returns after the loss of his young son, taking his love for the South African sound even further in an immaculately shot music video that features duo TxC as well.
TxC, Khanyisa Jaceni – Vuka Mauwulele
TxC takes their own stab at production to new levels in 2023, in a follow up to their debut EP A Fierce Piano which saw them joined by some big names in Daliwonga, Murumba Pitch and Unlimited Soul. This time featuring social media queen and vocal powerhouse Khanyisa Jaceni on a dreamy, infectious tune, the two have segued quite comfortably from one of the most enviable touring circuits in the scene to creating amapiano that is ideal for the dancefloor.
Uncle Waffles – Yahyuppiyah
One of the most recognisable tracks to hit social media, “Yahyuppiah” comes off Uncle Waffles’ second album Asylum with a well-timed dance routine to boot, as you’ll see in her casually posted video alongside Ciara. Going gold in its first week just in time for her historic set on the Coachella mainstage, Uncle Waffles has come pretty damn far from her days as a warm up act, earning heaps of respect as a producer, DJ, and advocate for amapiano in its locally loved forms.
Blaqnick & Masterblaq, Major League DJz – La Maluka
Serial hitmakers Blaqnick and Masterblaq enlist Major League DJz for this remake, finally landing in the public’s hands this year after making waves in streets and on screens throughout 2022. They sample a very recognisable “La Mezcla” by Michel Cleis which also sampled the Colombian track titled “Curura”, performed by Totó La Momposina in 1993 for a feverish amapiano twist.
Murumba Pitch, Lady Amar, Cici, JL SA – Hamba Juba
Duo Murumba Pitch have been very busy since the year began, showing their range across genres while leaning into a bit of Afro-house with Morda’s immaculate “Mohigan Sun.” On “Hamba Juba” they take a more romantic approach alongside the blossoming Lady Amar making her segue into recording, as well as vocalist Cici and JLSA, for a crowd pleasing track that’s climbing the charts as what’s arguably their most popular jam to date – and for good reason.
Zanten, PCee, Sgija Disciples – Kilimanjaro
If you’ve seen the TikTok challenge that has participants’ eyes rolling in the back of their heads as though they’re been possessed, then you’ve come across “Kilimanjaro.” Twosome ZanTen’s 2022 album Another Version of Us gave us a taste of their own full length Sgija listen, and beside “Zotata” hitmakers PCee and label head Mr JazziQ , they’re doing a great job of representing the Black is Brown camp.