South Africa’s relentless township groove amapiano has entertained curious ears for almost a decade now, with the genre’s rapid growth and evolution being championed by hundreds of hopeful producers who dig into new sounds with spades of experimentation. The consequence has been a long stream of unconventional yet runaway hits.
The constant supply and growing appetite of listeners has snowballed the sound into the biggest music genre in South Africa in terms of consumption. This year’s amapiano scene can easily be described as the year of collaboration with its overwhelming number of assisted hits from current hitmaking producers like JazziQ, De Mthuda and DBN Gogo whose catalogues are dominating the local airwaves.
Meanwhile, amapiano heavyweights DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small have contributed to a number of chart-toppers this year working with DJ Stokie, Sir Trill and Josiah De Disciple, among others. The township musical mood has also caught the eyes of prominent musicians outside of South Africa such as Davido and Rema, as well as US superstars like Drake who is expected to release his take on amapiano this year.
The following playlist features the best amapiano tunes of 2021 thus far, and will be constantly updated to reflect the current hits in high rotation.
Siyathandana by Cassper Nyovest ft Boohle and Abidoza
The genre-crossing rapper Cassper Nyovest is adamant about producing amapiano hits with ‘Siyathandana’ taken off his follow-up amapiano album Sweet & Short 2.0. His knack for reworking old classics tunes, in this case, Bob Sinclair’s ‘World Hold On’, coupled with the vocals of fast-rising singer Boohle have given the lead single a long-running streak on top of local music charts.
Gupta by Focalistic and Mr JazziQ ft. Lady Du, Mellow & Sleazy
Riding their wave of unstoppable success, amapiano heavyweights Focalistic, Mr JazziQ and Lady Du team up to deliver an aspirational song with production duo Mellow & Sleazy also in the works.
Banyana by DJ Maphorisa and Tyler ICU ft. Sir Trill, Daliwonga and Kabza De Small
‘Banyana’ sees a joint collaboration between amapiano’s top vocalists Sir Trill and Daliwonga joining forces with genre-bending prolific producers DJ Maphorisa, Tyler ICU and Kabza De Small. Familiar house heads will pick up on the sampling of Charles Webster’s popular club mix of Michel Cleis’ ‘La Mezcla’.
Iyamemeza by DJ Sumbody ft. The Lowkeys
DJ Sumbody seems to have a winning formula for making smash hits. After his popular runaway singles Ayepyep and Monate Mpolaye off his 2019 Ashi Nthwela album, the radio presenter has made a comeback with ‘Iyamemeza’ featuring Drip Gogo and The Lowkeys, which is dominating local airwaves.
Amaneighbour by Killer Kau and Mr JazziQ ft. Reece Madlisa, Thackzin DJ and Zuma
Killer Kau and Mr JazziQ, both early adopters of amapiano, continue at the fore of amapiano with this hit, leading the movement of the people’s music.
Possible by DBN Gogo, Musa Keys, Dinho and Lebza The Villain
Fans have been demanding ‘Possible’ since DBN Gogo teased her audience by playing the unreleased song in May. ‘Musa Keys’ on the production spells a great beat and perfect mixing and mastering, while DBN Gogo’s eye for consistently selecting stunning visuals become apparent on the song’s video.
Abahambayo by MFR Souls ft. Mzulu Kakhulu, Khobzn Kiavalla, DJ T-Man SA
Amapiano pioneers MFR Souls produce another hit, idiosyncratic of their clean succinct production style. The underrated song attests to their relevance and staying power on the amapiano scene.
Manuel by Josiah De Disciple and Kabza De Small
Taken from Josiah De Disciple’s latest album Spirit of Makoela Vol 2: The Reintroduction, ‘Manuel‘ sees the two pioneering and extremely talented producers trade vocals. Kabza has been flexing his vocal cords lately and, on the song, he addresses Manuel who, according to the lyrics, owes him. On paper, ‘Manuel’ is a certified smash and fortunately, that energy translates to the audio as well.
Woza by JazziQ ft. Kabza De Small, Lady Du and Boohle
JazziQ releases ‘Woza’ from his arsenal of plenty hits after running a voting poll on his social media followers, which was in favour of the song’s release. The contagious dance tune features amapiano forces Kabza De Small, Lady Du and Boohle.
Izolo by DJ Maphorisa & Tyler ICU ft. Mpura, Daliwonga and Visca
Taken off DJ Maphorisa and Tyler ICU’s three-track EP Banyana, the two tap top amapiano vocalists Daliwonga as well as Mpura and Visca for the unhurried song, which sees Tyler ICU reminiscing on his past.
Nkulunkulu by Kamo Mphela
Snazzy costumes, charming theatrics and explosive dance moves have become synonymous with singer and choreographer Kamo Mphela’s brand. Oozing with confidence and charisma, the 21 year old delivers a pithy mix of a rip-roaring beat, exhilarating visuals and her signature steps on the singer’s debut solo hit.
Hamba Nobani by Boohle ft. Busta 929, Reece Madlisa and Zuma
Fast-rising star Boohle delivers a runaway hit assisted by the regular collaborators Busta-929 and Zuma & Reece Madlisa who borrows a few lines from Mzambiya and the late Mshoza’s kwaito classic ‘Kortez’.
Vula Mlomo by Musa Keys ft. Sir Trill and Nobantu Vilakazi
Musa Keys proves his undeniable production skills with this unanticipated chart-topping single ‘Vula Mlomo’, which he recorded overnight during an impromptu recording session. Featured singers Sir Trill and Nobantu Vilakazi came to the party with poignant chants and seductive vocals.
LiyoShona by Kwiish SA ft. Malumnator, Njelic and De Mthuda
Kwiish SA’s new runaway hit ‘LiyoShona’ has signalled a big return to the scene with an unmistakable amapiano hit. He’s been under the radar since he belted out his 2019 hit ‘Iskhathi’, affectionately known as ‘Gong Gong’, which largely contributed to amapiano’s mainstream acceptance.
Abekho Ready by De Mthuda ft. Sir Trill and Da Muziqal Chef
De Mthuda’s deft production skills and Sir Trill’s vocals make for an undeniable hitmaking combination. Released in January on De Mthuda and Ntokzin’s reshuffled 2020 collaborative album Ace of Spades, the producers decide to throw on vocals on the new version
Umsebenzi Wethu by Busta 929 and Mpura ft. Mr JazziQ, Zuma, Lady Du and Reece Madlisa
Before this smash hit, it was unprecedented for an amapiano song to reach more than 5 million views. The unhurried single is still dominating local airwaves, and it’s one of many hits featuring Busta 929, Mpura, JazziQ and Reece Madlisa.
John Wick by De Mthuda ft. Ntokzin and Sir Trill
The highly talented producer De Mthuda continues to dominate local airwaves with ‘John Wick’ – a rudimental yet intense beat, which is characterised by repetitive thumping bass lines and synth overlaid by his regular collaborators Ntokzin and Sir Trill who laces his unique vocals.
Gcina Impilo Yam by DJ Cleo ft. Bucy Radebe
Every so often, a non-gospel musician puts out a gospel-fused song that eventually finds its way onto the top of playlists. This year, acclaimed house producer DJ Cleo, alongside Bucy Radebe, are guilty of producing such work. The hit also sees the return of the illustrious DJ, one of the country’s most efficient beatsmiths.
Khuza Gogo by DBN Gogo and Blaqnick & MasterBlaq ft. Mpura, Ama Avenger and M.J
Riding high off the success of their previous singles ‘French Kiss’ and ‘Whistling Man’, DBN Gogo tapped duo Blaqnick and MasterBlaq for the production on ‘Khuza Gogo’ while Mpura, Ama Avenger and M.J handled the vocals, which saw the runaway hit go multiplatinum in three months.
Dakiwe by DBN Gogo and Lady Du ft. Mr JazziQ, Seekay and Busta 929
DBN Gogo and Lady Du’s solid collaboration sees the former handling the decks while the latter braces her vocal stints. Here the two musos give the listener a devil-may-care, six-minute escape from their immediate surroundings. The hit is also responsible for the hashtag #DakiweChallenge going viral on social media across the country.
Catalia by Junior De Rocka and Lady Du ft. Mr JazziQ, Mellow and Sleazy
Lady Du’s prose and lyrical content have proven to be an important aspect of amapiano hits lately. The singer’s raw and repetitive chants take familiar ears back to the early progenitors that birthed the genre.
Superman by DJ Stokie ft. Kabza De Small, Masterpiece YVK and Madumane
DJ Stokie comes hard as nails on this single, with a swirling saxophone that repeatedly fades in and out. The song’s title and lyrical content allude to the fact that the musician was the first DJ to popularise the sound in Soweto.