Image courtesy of the artist.

Vigro Deep’s Experimental Strain of Amapiano Is Boundless

A look at the South African producer's inventive amapiano style in his latest albums, Far Away From Home and My House My Rules.

In a recent clip posted on Pharrell William's Instagram and Twitter feeds, the American star producer and musician shares kind words about his experience at Chanel’s Senegal-hosted fashion show backed by the sounds of Vigro Deep’s “Africa Rise,” an unlikely, boundary-crossing amapiano hit by the 21-year-old South African-born producer/DJ.

Since his thrilling emergence in 2018, Vigro Deep has remained imaginative. His unique use of the log drum — characterised by its thundering, rolling effect, and the pause-and-trickling bass of earlier hits like “Black Power” and “Untold Stories,” caught the masses' attention. While he became a household name for this distinctive and easily recognized sound between then and 2020’s Rise Of A Baby Boy, Vigro has since revamped it and created a mosaic by pairing contemporary electro and techno elements and sensibilities with amapiano. He started toying with this composite style on the last installment of his Baby Boy album series, Baby Boy 4, which came out in May 2021.

Far Away From Home

In an interview published in August 2021, the inventive, Pitori-hailing producer was reluctant to describe his sound as just amapiano. “I’ll say it’s more like electro-house music,” he revealed. “You know, I’m making music for the world, not just for Africa, not just for South Africa. I’m making music out of the box, that’s why I’m very creative when I make my music. I make motion tracks where there’s a whole lot of things in there.”

One of the first few instances where Vigro fully exhibited the compositions that he had been working on was in London on August 27th, 2021. During his Keep Hush and Bone Soda Carnival Special live set, he premiered tracks that would end up on his double album, Far Away From Home, which arrived in the last days of November that same year. The title of the project implied Vigro’s intentions of steering away from his usual sound and South Africa. The artwork is also a testament to this notion; a boarding pass, passport, bank cards, and banknotes, are displayed from inside an aircraft. Outside the window you can see the UK flag and London Bridge—where Vigro has his eyes set on.

Far Away From Home’s pre-released lead single, “I Am Vigro Deep” also offered a sneak peek of what was to come. Dark, hollow, and thunderous instrumentation underpin a vigorous poem that wonders what would happen if Vigro Deep went deep. The lines, “If I go deep / Will people pray for my downfall /Or just wait to see / If I go bleak?” instantly stand out. Going deep for Vigro meant going against the grain or what had become a norm, stylistically, to mainstream Amapiano in 2021. “If I go deep/ Will people realise that I just do beats / And I don't speak? / If I go deep / Will people know that, I'm just Vigro deep?” Uncredited and euphoric vocal/vox samples that he says he got from Skrillex, who has since become his acquaintance/collaborator, fuel the album along with heavy bass-driven percussions.

While countless recent amapiano songs and projects are filled with collaborations between vocalists and co-producers, Vigro opted for minimalism. He is the sole contributor on most of the tracks, the majority of them being instrumentals — which in a way is reminiscent of his and the genre’s past. Though rooted in ‘piano, Far Away From Home is forward-looking and Europe-facing, all but one of the vocals and song titles are in English.

“My dream is to get to Spain. [With] the sound that I do, I think of Ibiza type [of places and festivals], Tomorrowland. That’s what I’m looking for, that’s what I’m looking at, that’s what I’m currently working at,” he told CNN, in their January 2022 released mini-documentary on amapiano.

Vigro’s dream would crystallize months later. In July 2022, “Africa Rise,” “Some Attitude,” and “I Am Vigro Deep” blasted through gigantic speakers in Ibiza during a Boiler Room show, where the internationally acclaimed duo, Major League DJz, UK-based DJs Charisse C and Ade Smilez rendered sets. LuuDadeejay, who works closely with the twins, is the project’s sole co-producer on the track “Number,” while Vigro’s frequent collaborators, DJ Bucks, Yashna, and Neo Ndawo make vocal appearances on “In The Dark” and “Fire & Ice,” respectively. Much like his adored, unreleased but leaked remake of Bring Me The Horizon’s “Can You Feel My Heart,” Vigro also put his peculiar spin on Amaarae’s viral track “SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY,” which he says were both supposed to be on Far Away From Home.

Towards the tail end of the body of work reverberates the cheekily-titled “Some Old Song.” The track borrows the melody of Joakin’s remix of “Camino Del Sol” by French-Belgian trio Antena — which was popular in South Africa in the 2000s and was famously interpolated on rapper Kwesta’s 2016 hit “Ngud.” Vigro’s take on the song gave it a creative and futuristic facelift, contrasting the common direct manipulation of the original. In another interview published on Oct 22, Vigro revealed that 70% of Far Away From Home was done in London. And that he wanted “to create something new, to target the European market.”

When asked in a recent podcast, if he felt that South Africans underappreciated Far Away From Home, Vigro quickly disagreed, detailing that his countrymen were not the primary audience for the effort because of how different it is. He acknowledges how the LP was better received outside of his home country, and that South Africans “got it later.” As he regularly tours Europe, it’s evident that his productions have traveled far away from home, as he initially intended.

Your 'Piano Is Not My 'Piano

In his December 2022-released album, My House My Rules, Vigro Deep welcomes listeners with an anthemic track that contains a computerized voice towards the end. In a bid to trance-induce or prequel what is to come, the voice defines what hypnosis is and describes some of its characteristics.

In many ways, the genre-melding offering follows in the direction of its predecessor with plentiful use of synths, arena-ready build-ups, mega breaks, and drops. These are again accompanied by minimum features and collaborations. Snenaah and M.J lend their vocals on “Ngizokulinda” and “Petori to Ibiza,” while Senjay and Mhaw Keys can be heard chanting on “Shukushuku” and “Desperado.” Freddy K, like LuuDadeejay on Far Away From Home, is the lone co-producer on “No Mercy.” The album’s artwork visually displays Vigro’s solitude (in both his art and sonic direction) as he appears sitting in isolation in the dark.

My House My Rules his first release since he’s been out of his deal with Kalawa Jazmee and Universal Music. The 17-track record was released via Rinse — the label division of the London radio station, Rinse FM, making him the first amapiano act to put out a full project with them. When asked where he sees himself in the next two years, by the station’s on-air host DJ Neptizzle, Vigro confidently shared his ceaseless ambition of performing at the Belgian-birthed dance music festival. “I really see myself playing in Tomorrowland with the new sound that I have,” he declared unwaveringly, in the April-2022-broadcasted interview.

Don't go out too far they said, you haven't got the power / You'll never make it back / You’ve got too much to lose they said, told them they were wrong, and I disappeared into the black,” sings an ethereal voice on the third track, “5am Set.” On a July ‘22 Instagram live, the virtuoso showed his creative process as he put the finishing touches on the song by adding an accompanying bassline and keys.

Throughout the project, Vigro’s vision remains outward. The second track “Gran Turismo,” is named after the popular car racing video game, while curtain closer “Desperado,” lifts its name from the Antonio Banderas 1995-released Western blockbuster, and also references the melody of “Alma de Guitarra,” which the movie star infamously debuts during the opening scene of the action-packed film. In the boldly-titled “Petori to Ibiza,” the masterful producer invites vocalist M.J to manifest and verbalise his aspiration of playing at the world’s most desired nightclub destination hotspot on wax. “Pitori to Ibiza, re tsena ka Sgida,” M.J expresses in the track's refrain.

Vigro often shares how an encounter with Skrillex in a London studio made him fine-tune his current style. “I explained to him where I wanted to go, and he understood and told me I had to change this and that. He told me that he knew what I wanted and that I should just be me. ‘If you wanna mix it with dubstep, do you, be you,’” he revealed.

It’s clear that Vigro Deep is equally radical and intentional with his newest stylistic approach. He has willingly chosen to make Amapiano which leans towards the sonics of global electronic dance music because that’s the space he's been playing in and wants to pursue further. He is a well-traveled DJ/producer that soaks up the different sounds of the countries and places he frequents like the UK or the Netherlands. Vigro creates from an adventurous place of no restriction or consideration of what his peers are currently doing. He has pushed himself artistically to unfamiliar terrains, and exists in his own world but is kind enough to let listeners in from time to time. As YouTube user @nyati86 commented under one of his live-recorded DJ sets, “Vigro deserves a set at Tomorrowland and gigs in Ibiza… this is the bridge for Amapiano to the world.”


12 Songs That Make Us Extremely Proud To Be African

Africa is home to some of the most rhythmic sounds. What better way to celebrate #AfricaDay than with a playlist that captures the continent's essence.

Africa Day, celebrated annually on May 25, was first established to mark the day on which the Organisation of African Unity (African Union) was founded 58 years ago in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The day, however, has evolved into one of deep reflection on the strides our continent has made, while also serving as a reminder to stay committed to our peace and unity goals, as well as finding solutions to the deep-seated challenges that continue to plague the continent.

To celebrate #AfricaDay in song, we asked 12 of our contributors to each share a song, by an African artist, that makes them stand tall to be African. Find their varied selections below!

Wizkid​​, "​​​​Ojuelegba" — selected by Ifeoluwa James Falola ​​

"For many on the streets of Lagos and beyond, "Ojuelegba" excellently describes the hustle inherent within us as Africans, and our constant quest for a better life while momentarily wanting to have a good time. "Ojuelegba" is a hallmark of the global emergence of African music. The Legendury Beatz-produced song was pivotal in the 'Africa To The World Movement', eventually accruing a Drake and Skepta co-sign. If anything, you would always remember where you were when you first heard "Ojuelegba" or how it made you feel. "Ojuelegba" is a representation of dreams coming true, regardless of how wild they are!"

Capso, “Afrika” — selected by Mayuyuka Kaunda

"For a Botswana-born, South Africa-educated Malawian, this song has always struck a chord with me. Between Capso's rapfrobeat — a combination of groovy rhythms and poetic lyricism — "Afrika" embodies the eternal optimism of a continent. No matter my physical address or area code, "Afrika" continues to serve as the soundtrack to my feeling at home."

Burna Boy, “Dangote” — selected by Olabode Otolorin

"When Burna Boy dropped "Dangote" in 2019, it was a reflection of the different realities present in individual and families lives — the difficulties, the striving, the hunger. But amidst all, it restates that we Africans (at every income class), are fueled by our money-making desire. On this hit, Burna Boy references the continent's wealthiest figure Aliko Dangote, reminding us of his insatiable craving — to accumulate more wealth."

Tems, “Free Mind” — selected by Nasir Ahmed Achile

"Tems chronicles the inner dialogue of a mind searching for peace. It's a condition, I believe, many young Africans trying to flourish today can relate to, amidst experiences of oppression around the world. Tems' vocal prowess on this track, and everywhere else, makes me proud to be African."

Wizkid, “Blessed” — selected by Wale Oloworekende

"The world that Wizkid's "Blessed" came to exist in was, in fact, very stressful. But in a year when we had to deal with the fallout of a pandemic, socially-distanced living, Nigeria's sobering realities of police brutality, and violence against women and marginalised communities, the song was a potent reminder of music's capacity to be a salve for difficult times. The opening vocals of a woman advertising her ware on "Blessed" also instantly transports any true Lagosian to the indomitable pulse of the city — and the familiarity feels warm."

Focalistic and Davido featuring Vigro Deep, “Ke Star [Remix]” — selected by Madzadza Miya

"Ke Star Remix" is a feel good song, with underlying messaging of self-confidence that makes me proud to be African. By roping Davido in for the remix, there's an immediate cultural exchange that occurs — the cross-pollination of sounds blurs the disconnect that sometimes exists between South Africa and Nigeria. Though they come from different backgrounds, what both Focalistic and Davido stand for as artists is similar, being authentic to themselves and putting that across their music. Both artists embody the spirit of Ubuntu, the idea that a person is a person because of others. I love how these two are always sending the elevator down to other emerging artists."

Tsepo Tshola, "Nonyana" — selected by Sekese Rasephei

"Nonyana" (a Sesotho word meaning bird) tells the story of a farmer lamenting the destruction of his produce on account of wild birds feeding on it. Hardly the most ideal circumstance for a farmer because as Africans, one of the things we're renowned for is working hard on our arable land to provide food for our families. Tsepo Tshola's lyrical prowess turns a normal, every day occurrence into a heartfelt yet enjoyable song, reminding us that as Africans, we know how to find joy even in our misery."

Angelique Kidjo, “Bahia” — Ciku Kameria

"The entire Black Ivory Soul album is amazing, but I especially love this song because Kidjo connects the story of Africans with that of our brothers and sisters around the world. As an African, I feel a strong sense of kinship with Black people the world over, and wish for more opportunities for cultural exchanges. This album propelled me to travel to Bahia, Brazil and where I felt at home as soon as I arrived. I almost didn't leave a month later [chuckles]. It ignited my desire to learn more about the experiences of Black people worldwide."

Johnny Drille, “Bad Dancer” — selected by Tochi Louis

"The percussion, piano and violin laced in this record assists with evoking a hopeless romantic's daydream. It's interesting to see a record by an African artist spark such an affection amongst listeners around the world, in the same way that a John Legend number would. Also, it doesn't get better than Drille writing, producing and engineering the record himself. Everyone deserves to witness the magic that is this record, as well as the diversity in our sonic palette as Africans."

J Hus, “Spirit” — selected by Bakang Akoonyatse

"Lyrically, "Spirit" is a solid starting point where J Hus' work truly began to explore themes of spirituality, ancestral veneration and how this relates to being Black in a white supremacist and capitalist society, covered in his critically-acclaimed follow-up album, Big Conspiracy. J Hus makes music for individuals who traverse modern and old worlds because, truly, the future is about finding a balance between our identities and circumstances — and understanding how one relates to the other."

Zoë Modiga, “Isegazini” — selected by Kemong Mopedi

"On "Isegazini", off South African jazz artist Zoë Modiga's sophomore album Inganekwane, she waxes lyrical about a certain inherent trait — one that flows in a person's bloodstream. The beauty about music is that we can dissect it to our liking and understanding. For me, the trait Zoë so passionately sings about is humanity. Every corner of our continent that I have visited, previously, has always felt like home — and it can only be due to our intrinsic warmth and welcoming spirit!"

Fatoumata Diawara, “Nterini” — selected by Nelson Charity John

""Nterini" has a delectable vibe that sets it apart from many sounds coming out of Africa today. Although the song is an ode of sorts to an absent love, Malian actress and singer Diawara manages to make it a song that holds very distinct spaces and interpretations to listeners. It's also the perfect song to show off Africa's diverse musical cannon, away from known, contemporary sounds."

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