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Interview: South African Amapiano Duo JazziDisciples Mean Business

The popular duo JazziDisciples is taking amapiano to new levels.

This profile is part of a series of interviews and profiles on amapiano artists and personalities sponsored by Corona. You can follow the rest of the series here.

"We're the only amapiano guys with an actual album out," says the duo JazziDisciples' manager Havoc. He further adds that the duo is the only amapiano outfit performing at Black Coffee's annual concert Music is King and Afropunk Joburg, which both took place in December, a month before the duo sat down for an interview with OkayAfrica." And of course, the Amapiano Sunsets Tour which was organized by Corona earlier on in 2019.


They deserve all the love they are getting. The duo, also known to fans as Bafana Ba Number, are some of the head honchos of amapiano, the popular subgenre of South African house music that one hears everywhere in the country at the moment.

JazziDisciples is made up of the two producers from the Joburg township of Alexandra, Josiah The Disciple and Mr Jazzi. They are known for their mixes, hits such as "Long Lasting" and "The GoodGuys," and of course their encompassing tagline "Amapiano is a lifestyle."

Asked what that lifestyle entails, they nominate their manager to respond.

"Amapiano is more of a feeling than it is a sound," says Havoc. "It transcends through a lot of people because interestingly enough over the past few shows we've been doing, we've really seen direct effects on what it has on the White crowd, you know. From how they react to, say, EDM. There's a disconnect between Black people and EDM. With piano, however, everyone really loves it. Like really, really loves it. Like there's just something about the sound."


Another aspect of this amapiano lifestyle is how the music was distributed in the genre's early days and still continues to. Just like gqom before it, when amapiano started, it was distributed through free file-hosting websites like Data File Host and Fakaza, and the links (and actual files) were exchanged in WhatsApp groups. This helped a lot of the producers get gigs.

But what happens when an artist who's forged a relationship of that kind with their fans now asks them to part with several Rands for music? Mr Jazzi admits it wasn't easy. "It was very tricky," he says. "It was very, very tricky because our people didn't really understand, why are we supposed to move that direction? Because they've been feeding us free music, now all of a sudden you want us to pay. So, it was a big hassle."

He adds that "now the mindset has changed." The duo's recently-released debut album Disciples of Piano is doing well, according to them and they are happy with the response from fans.

Just like gqom, amapiano had humble beginnings, starting out as a genre that mainstream media wouldn't give the time of day. Today, though, things have changed. The genre's being incorporated by some of the country's (and the continent's) biggest artists. The biggest South African hits of 2019 have mostly been amapiano songs.

The duo and their manager all agree that amapiano will eventually travel abroad. "Just like each and every genre, it starts small, it starts just within one niche," says Disciple. "So that's how amapiano did. I mean if you're able to actually get bookings from neighboring countries, then the sound is actually going somewhere. So, it's going to get to Ibiza one day."

JazzDisciples- Sgubu Se Monati Ft. Vigro Deep & DJ Buckz www.youtube.com

JazziDisciples aren't only just pushing the envelope by releasing the first amapiano album and performing on stages the genre has never been given a platform. They also make sure their music borrows sounds from other genres like jazz. "So we're musical, we just happened to be under a sub-genre," says Havoc. Disciples of Piano makes a compelling argument for that statement. Alongside the customary keys and lush pads, you hear additional sounds and ones you can't produce with software. The duo brings in session musicians to play violins and other contraptions for their music.

Their history in conventional South African house is also a great tool they use to their advantage. Says Disciple: "I was just inspired by Culo de Song, so my mindset was just tribal all the way. But then over the years, you listen to other styles like deep house and soulful house. So, when you're in studio you just think, what if I incorporate other things into this tribal, and see what I can come up with."

It all worked out. JazziDisciples are at the forefront of a lifestyle and subgenre that has soundtracked many parties in South Africa and neighboring countries since the beginning of the year.

Stream Disciple of Piano below:




Follow JazziDisciples on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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