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The best amapiano of 2023 so far (2)

PAM rounds up the hottest amapiano releases of 2023 from across the continent as the South African genre continues to produce global hits and garner vast influence.

It’s been quite a fruitful few months for amapiano, with a lot more collaborative works making their way between South Africa and artists abroad. Major League DJs teamed up with musicians such as Kojey Radical and Makhanj for another volume of collaborative work supported by Nando’s, while bookings for everyone from DBN GOGO to Vigro Deep continue to pile up even as the European summer tapers off. Artists at home are taking to the studio to cook up their next South African summer bangers, and there’s ample anticipation for who will rival Tumelo and  Tyler ICU’s “Mnike” for track of the year. All of this is great for the booming South African genre, even as new questions are being raised regarding the authenticity of some of amapiano’s new homes. Who knows where to from here – but in the meantime, check out the last few month’s standout tracks below from around the globe, with some paying homage to the past as well as a few that could possibly signal the genre’s multifaceted future. 

Tyler ICU ft. DJ Maphorisa, Nandipha808, Ceeka RSA & Tyron Dee – Mnike

One of the biggest releases of the year so far, “Mnike” has dominated to become one of the most recognisable tracks for anyone looking to enjoy a truly communal experience on the dancefloor. This is hardly surprising, as Tyler has been co-producing some of amapiano’s greatest contributions for the past few years, alongside folks such as DJ Maphorisa, ShaSha, Cassper Nyovest and the late Riky Rick to name just a few. Still dominating in the charts since its official release in April, it looks like this one will be tough to challenge for track of the year.

uLazi ft Infinity MusiQ – Yey

Another track dominating in amapiano’s epicentre as well as all over the internet is Ulazi’s “Yey,” which soundtracked one of the most viral (and tricky-to-execute) dance challenges on TikTok yet. While there’s not too much about him online, it’s clear that this infectious tune struck a chord with amapiano lovers across the world who prefer to get up and try their hands (and feet?) at another nimble number.

The Ascension, Baby S.O.N., Charisse C, Koek Sista, Makhanj, Reed, Sfarzo Rtee – Khulula

The UK has embraced amapiano wholeheartedly, and many artists who see the genre as a way to reconnect with their roots on the continent have been trying their hand at their own iterations of “ama.” Charisse C and Koeksista, or rather the duo known as The Ascension, released their first official offering in “Khulula” alongside resident South Africans Makhanj, Baby S.O.N and Sfarzo Rtee in April, and look to connect with more of South Africa’s best for a truly exciting and authentic-sounding cross-continental connection. 

Dj Kwamzy – The Law of Attraction

Speaking of the UK, London-based DJ Kwamzy – born Kwadwo Badu and raised in Ghana – has made a name for himself crafting well-balanced amapiano sets as a DJ, as in his Boiler Room Amaproblem Toronto and this journey through the genre at Rinse FM. He’s been hard at work listening and learning for a few years now, making his mark abroad with Amapiano To The World Volumes 1 and 2, and now offers “The Law of Attraction” which sits well alongside many South African-made sgija records. 

Tebza de DJ, Nomza the King – Ka Valungu

Created by Tsonga “king of Shangaan Disco” Peta Teanet, “Ka Valungu” was originally a struggle song with a rather dark undertone. With the lyrics roughly translating to “kill a cat to eat on the train because there are no chickens in white people’s land,” Tebza’s amapiano remake of this track had folks jamming across social media in gleeful confusion. It should go without saying that no cats were harmed in the making of this track, but migrant workers did find it difficult to find something good to eat while traveling to the white neighborhoods back during Apartheid’s height, and a little humor and music can go a long way to ease an empty stomach. 

Uncle Waffles feat. Ice Beats Slide, Sbuda Maleather – Peacock Revisit

In another revamp for an old school classic, Swazi-born Uncle Waffles continues to forge ahead, this time sampling Venda 1980s band Splash’s “Peacock.” It’s an infectious yet brooding iteration that has quickly risen to become a club staple. It’s been quite a rollercoaster for Waffles of late, as she continues to travel the globe with a string of North American tour dates, whilst releasing a pop-leaning album in Solace just a few months after her last EP release. 

Azekel, Nao, Larizzle – Chocolati Remix

Nigerian-born and London-raised Azekel has always had a penchant for the smoothest, richest vocals, and he delivered an immaculate show of his prowess on the COLORS show, performing the original to this amapiano remix. “Chocolati” features vocal powerhouse Nao alongside him as well as the dexterous workings of producer Larizzle who has carried his own bold contributions to the UK’s amapiano experience for years now, both online on BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Amapiano to Afrohouse as well as live, with what has become the UK’s premier Amapiano party at Soho House & Co, which he’s dubbed ‘Piano House’.

De Mthuda, Da Muziqal Chef, Eemoh feat. Sipho Magudulela – Sgudi Sync

One of amapiano’s most respected producers (think “Shesha” with Njelic, “John Wick” with Sir Trill and “Jola” with Sino Msolo) returns with another heart-warming number alongside Da Muziqal Chef. In this feel-good track, Eemoh lends his voice to a play on the words “it’s good, it’s nice,” providing folks with an irresistibly nostalgic track that brings back memories of the 80s TV show of the same name starring the iconic Joe Mafela. 

Zeze Kingston, LeuMas feat. Achina Gattah, DJ Drew, Richard Billy – Mphaka

Malawi has been brimming with its own traditional music and jazz for some time, but over the past year has seen a spike in demand for amapiano, in large thanks to Chilobwe-hailing Zeze Kingston who has since become a household name in the region. His breakout track “Ndathela Pano” caught the country’s attention with its affirming, romantic lyrics and fun take on the genre, which he follows with “Mphaka” featuring one of Malawi’s biggest hip hop acts in Achina Gattah Ase. The track stems from the Malawian saying “mphaka wachoka makoswe atase,” meaning “the cat has left the house, so the rats will have a party.”

Kojey Radical, Major League DJz, Magicsticks – Bad For Business

To round off this quarter’s list, we end with British-Ghanaian wordsmith Kojey Radical teaming up with amapiano’s busiest duo, Major League Djz, who have managed to provide the globe with standout platforms from which to experience amapiano’s magnetism both online and live. As if those two acts were not powerful enough a coupling for you, they enlist the immaculate skill of nimble Naija producer Magicsticks – the producer behind Asake’s most viral releases fusing fuji, afrobeats and amapiano – for a well-balanced collab.