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Zero12Finest &Thamagnificent2 "Baby Are You Coming?" (Youtube)

The 10 Best Amapiano Songs of 2019

2019 was the year of the yanos.

Amapiano, South Africa's new dominant electronic music movement, oozes through mobile and car speakers, sound rigs and shopping mall PA systems throughout the country.

Amapiano borrows from the music that's been popular in South African townships for decades: kwaito, jazz and house are just some of its raw ingredients. Started in Pretoria, SA's administrative capital, the rising genre is a sophisticated hybrid of deep house, jazz and lounge music characterized by synths, airy pads and wide basslines. What each producer does with these is as much evolution as it is chemistry.

The word "amapiano" translated to English is "pianos." It merges an isiZulu plural article (ama) with an English noun (piano). Hundreds of new amapiano songs are released through messaging apps and free file-sharing sites every day. Few become popular, a handful become anthemic and even fewer become ubiquitous, as they're heard ringing out at countless clubs and parties across South Africa.

Read ahead for The Best Amapiano Songs of 2019. Listed in no particular order.


Kaygee Daking x Bizizi 'Kokota Piano'

Amapiano does not play, iyakokota (it knocks). The kick drum in most songs bumps with a breathtaking force. It's the drums and percussions that catch and hypnotize the listener first, as can be heard in this highlight from Kaygee Daking and Bizizi. "Kokota Piano" uses the insider slang to introduce amapiano to a bigger audience.

Kabza De Small feat. Leehleza 'Umshove'

"Umshove" is one in a string of hits coming out of producer Kabza de Small and vocalist Leehleza's collaborations. In his chorus, Leehleza references lyrics sung by Lebo Mathosa on the popular Boom Shaka song "Gcwala," which was released during the golden era of kwaito in the '90s.

De Mthuda 'Shesha Geza'

On "Shesha Geza," vocalist Njelic tries to convince his partner to get ready for a party quickly over a beat by De Mthuda. This combination of pining and hedonism have become dominant themes in the lyrics of the amapiano songs that have gained major underground and mainstream popularity.

Zero12Finest feat. Thamagnificent2 'Baby are you Coming?'

Mamelodi, a township at the outskirts of South Africa's administrative capital city, Pretoria, has been instrumental in the direction of the amapiano movement. "Baby are you Coming?" uses Mamelodi slang and a double entendre over a beat that borrows from diBacardi, a genre of South African house music which also owes its popularity to townships surrounding Pretoria.

DJ Sumbody 'Ngwana Daddy' feat. Kwesta, Thebe, Vettys & Vaal Nation

DJ Sumbody is an artist, promoter and record label owner showing Pretoria-based artists how to find commercial success with their heavily kwaito and diBacardi-influenced brand of amapiano. Featuring kwaito legend Thebe on "Ngwana Daddy" alongside big names like Kwesta is as much a business decision as it is a musical one.

Semi Tee feat. Miano, Kammu Dee 'Labantwana Ama Uber'

"Labantwana Ama Uber" has been at the centre of a debate about the influence amapiano lyrics have on young South Africans. Reheating and serving similar arguments previously used against hip-hop, metal and other genres, some argue that this song, which talks about young women ingesting substances through their noses, encourages drug. Fortunately, music history floors this argument.

Jobe London & Mphow69 feat. Kamo Manje 'Sukendleleni'

The shakers and percussion in the introduction to "Sukendleleni" are a masterful depiction of the rhythm and pace of South African townships and the music emanating from them. Jobe London, Mphow69 and Kamo Manje's timing od introducing new elements to the composition is nearly flawless, holding the groove until the last possible moment before a number of breaks.

Samthing Soweto feat. Sha Sha, DJ Maphorisa & Kabza De Small 'Akulaleki'

Kabza de Small and DJ Maphorisa's Scorpion Kings is the opus of their amapiano collaborations. It was clear from the EP's first drop that they had hit a sweet spot between the genre's underground roots and a commercial music industry sensibility. "Akulaleki" is Samthing Soweto's most successful amapiano foray, in which he croons over an instrumental that knocks but makes room for his vocal prowess.

Mphow_69 & ThackzinDj feat/ Killer Kau 'Ama'International (Ufunani eSandton)'

The word "amapiano" translated to English is "pianos." It merges an isiZulu plural article (ama) with an English noun (piano). Pronouncing the genre's name lays bare one's distance from or proximity to the townships where it was birthed and continues to thrive. "Ama'International (Ufunani eSandton)" talks about the futile aspiration to leave the township for more affluent suburbs like Johannesburg's Sandton.

Zing Master feat. Plee & Jusca, Mabozza, Letuna 'Empa Nna'

The social context in which amapiano has flourished in South Africa, especially in its townships, is highlighted on "Empa Nna." Comparing themselves to other, more successful or gifted people, the vocalists lament their lot in life. The sound, which in many ways represents an escape for young South Africans, is drawn into tongue-in-cheek social commentary here from Zing Master, Plee & Jusca, Mabozza, and Letuna.

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Ayanda Jiya. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

South African Women Dropped the Best Debuts of 2019

We highlight 10 noteworthy albums & EPs from a new generation of vocal talent in South Africa, featuring Elaine, Ayanda Jiya, Ami Faku and more.

The South African music scene has seen an uptick in youthful, vocally gifted artists over the years. Much of this is owed to the recent global resurgence of R&B, as well as the increased significance of streaming sites, especially SoundCloud.

From internet-savvy artists creating jazz, alternative soul and house-infused spoken word to radio friendly iterations of pop and Afro-soul, 2019 has been the year of impactful debut performances.

This year ushered in the voices of a new generation of South African female artists announcing themselves to the world.

Here's a lowdown of 10 great releases from talented female vocalists, songwriters and composers marking this new era.

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The 20 Best Nigerian Songs of 2019

Featuring Burna Boy, Rema, Tiwa Savage, Zlatan, Mr Eazi, Wizkid, Teni, Davido, Lady Donli and many more.

2019 was another huge year for Nigerian music.

Zlatan's presence was ubiquitous and powered by the zeal for zanku, a dance which is now de rigueur. Rema led the charge for a group of young breakthrough artists that include Fireboy DML and Joeboy. They all represent an exciting crop of talents that point the way forward for Nigerian pop.

Burna Boy's new dominance, built around his excellent African Giant album, delivered on his rare talents, while the long wait for Davido's sophomore album, A Good Time, paid off in satisfying fashion. Simi's Omo Charlie Champagne Vol. 1 announced her departure from her longterm label. Tiwa Savage also made a highly-discussed move from Mavin Records to Universal Music Group. Meanwhile, Yemi Alade exuded female strength with her latest record, Woman of Steel.

Not to be left out, Wizkid sated demands for his fourth album with a new collaborative EP following a year of stellar features that included his presence on Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift, an album which also boasts Tekno, Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage. Mr Eazi also notably launched his emPawa initiative to help fund Africa's promising up-and-coming artists.

Asa returned in a formidable form with Lucid, while buzzing artists like Tay Iwar, Santi, and Lady Donli all shared notable releases. Lastly, the beef between Vector and M.I climaxed and sparked a resurgence of Nigerian rap releases from Phyno to Ycee, PsychoYP and more.

Read on for the best Nigerian songs of 2019. Listed in no particular order. —Sabo Kpade

Follow our BEST SONGS OF 2019 playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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(Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Blitz the Ambassador Named 2020 Guggenheim Fellow

The Ghanaian artist and filmmaker is among 175 "individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts."

Ghanaian filmmaker Blitz Bazawule, also known as Blitz the Ambassador has been named a 2020 Guggenheim fellow.

The musician, artist and director behind he critically acclaimed film The Burial of Kojo, announced the news via social media on Thursday, writing: "Super excited to announce I've been awarded the Guggenheim 2020 Fellowship. Truly grateful and inspired."

He is among 175 scholars, "appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Foundation's ninety-sixth competition," says the Guggenheim.

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Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

6 South African Podcasts to Listen to During the Lockdown

Here are six South African podcasts worth listening to.

South Africa has been on lockdown for almost two weeks as a measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and it looks like the period might just get extended. If you are one of those whose work can't be done from home, then you must have a lot of time in your hands. Below, we recommend six South African podcasts you can occupy yourself with and get empowered, entertained and informed.


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