The main event at the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations wasn’t the match between the South African and Nigerian teams; the real showdown occurred on Twitter with the Amapiano wars between South Africans and Nigerians. Not me logging in after the match and seeing a tweet saying, “Dear South Africans, Amapiano belongs to Nigerians now” – say what?

As I’ve learned, Amapiano has gained immense popularity in Nigeria, giving rise to a brand-new musical genre known as Afropiano, blending Amapiano with the sounds of Afrobeats. Many Nigerian artists have achieved mainstream success using distinctive shakers and low drums in their songs, leading Nigerians to discuss the South African sound with a sense of ownership.

Speaking to Amapiano fanatic Zukhanye (19): “I won’t lie, Nigerian artists are cooking with the genre, but it’s still not our Amapiano or theirs to claim. It’s great that they’ve somewhat fused it with their sounds, and I’m not mad at that because they work with our people”.

Now, there’s no denying that Amapiano has significantly influenced various music spaces worldwide. In the UK, an Ama fest dedicated specifically to Amapiano takes place, featuring artists such as Uncle Waffles, Young Stunna, and Kamo Phela, alongside Amapiano DJs – fantastic!

However, the issue arises when US music artists like Swae-Lee tweet that they’ll soon be on an Amapiano track and credit that sound to Nigerian artists rather than South Africans! How, Swae?

In 2021, Jorja also faced criticism for producing a watered-down adaptation of Amapiano with the idea of taking “piano to the world”. In what way, if your record excludes the pioneers?

Superfan Sihle (23) explained: “We can get accused of gatekeeping, but there’s a fine line between dabbling in the genre and appropriation. It is not to discourage other artists from participating, but the genre’s and culture’s significance may be lost. Try the genre but include and credit its people”.

Let’s get one thing straight – Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa are some of the earliest well-known pioneers of the style. Seasoned South African producers and DJs are seasoned South African producers and DJs who have played a significant role in Amapiano’s development through their partnerships and global artist contacts.

Vouching for the greatness of these two artists, music lover Phumeza (24) said: “Amapiano is nothing without Kabza and Maphorisa; they’ve elevated the genre and culture to unexplainable heights through their work and influence”.

My first experience with Amapiano was listening to Kabza – my favourite song remains “Emcimbini” on the Scorpions King Live album – oh, what a masterpiece!

Around 2012, the electronically produced dance music began emerging from South African townships and has now become the most famous music in the nation. The name derives from a word meaning “the pianos” in the Zulu language.

2019 marked Amapiano’s breakthrough year. Although Amapiano music was initially aired on very few radio stations, it gained enormous popularity when given a regular slot on YFM called the “Amapiano Hour.”

With beats playing at 112 per minute, Amapiano incorporates influences from 90s deep house, kwaito, and jazz. Technically, it can be quickly recognised thanks to the distinctive shaker at the core of its percussion entrance. The song then develops to a peak where the distinctive log drum, serving as the bass instrument, is prominently featured. Amapiano continues to evolve, giving rise to increasingly unique sub-genres, including techno, private school, and dust/s.

Everyone should engage in music fairly and morally so it won’t deprive the genre’s pioneers.

What are your thoughts on artists adapting genres like Amapiano for international audiences?