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BY ROSIE CAIN  09/11/2022

South Africa has given us plenty of great musical exports over the years, from Jazz, Bubblegum and Kwaito to more contemporary genres like the raw, rhythmic sounds of Gqom that bubbled up in Durban townships – a Brief History of which was charted by pioneer DJ Lag for us last year.

Amapiano is the most recent sensation to come out of the country. First appearing in the mid-2010s, the genre evolved out of South African house music, filling the void that was left by Kwaito in the noughties, in turn becoming a soundtrack for young people in South Africa. Taking cues from deep, soulful house, jazz and lounge, and at times calling to mind the sound of UK Funky, it’s often characterised by atmospheric pads, synths and spacious bass lines.

These sounds have travelled across borders too. In recent years the Amapiano craze has taken over TikTok and Spotify, while here in the UK underground producers are also taking inspiration from these grooves in their own work. We’ve heard it in Scratcha DVA’s output, particularly on his link ups with SA artists like Mxshi Mo, and it’s found its way into the hearts and USBs of DJs here too, namely London’s Nicky Summers.

Her passion for soulful Afro house and deep tech led her to Amapiano. After hearing it at a party a few years ago, she was hooked, and since then it’s become a central part of her musical repertoire. Ahead of her set at amapiano-indebted night Ama at Jazz Cafe, Nicky treats us to a set of her favourite underground tracks and shares how the sound first grabbed her and has impacted her musical journey since.

Where does your love for underground amapiano stem from? 

My love for Amapiano has come from listening to house music on a whole. I started off playing deep tech – I still do, alongside Afro house. I was at an Afro house party when I heard my first Amapiano track a few years ago. That song alone grabbed me and Amapiano hasn’t let me go! 

What marks out an underground amapiano track, compared to the rest of the genres? 

It really depends on what you like the most is it vocals? Is it heavy bass lines? I love them both – when they are combined it’s honestly mind blowing and so addictive.

What underground amapiano record has left the biggest impression on you as a DJ, and why? 

I couldn’t pick one song – it’s impossible. Every song I play I play because it’s a favourite, it’s also something I listen to regularly, so that one song I couldn’t pick for you.

What underground amapiano record has made the biggest impact on your sound as a producer, and why? 

For me personally a song that really broke and woke people up would have to be Musa Keys ‘Vula Momo’ – it’s simply iconic.

DJ Sbu feat. Zahara – Lengoma 

One of the very first songs I heard and immediately fell in love with. This song will continue to age well. Close your eyes and let it take you where ever it goes.

Sun-El Musician feat. Simmy & Leo Kamau – Sonini 

I can’t quite explain how this song makes me feel other than teary. South African producers and singers are truly some of the most gifted in the world.

MACG Feat. Sir Trill, Bailey & Emjaykeyz – Nkantin

This song is straight vibes – if you aren’t bouncing to this one you are doing something wrong!

Musa Keys & Konke – Kancane

Another song that takes you on a beautiful journey. We really have to thank South Africans for everything they do musically because they are unmatched!

Mas Musiq feat. Aymos, Kabza De Small & DJ Maphorisa – Uzozisola

Mas music as a producer is so solid in his work it’s unreal. I’ve been playing his music from the jump – it’s so timeless, plus he’s an incredible DJ.