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10 of South Africa’s Leading Amapiano Artists

Published 1 month ago
By Chanel Retief

For the first time, FORBES AFRICA’s 30 Under 30 list published in June this year featured an Amapiano artist. This opened up the conversation about how big this music genre is in South Africa. Here, we compile some of the hitmakers dominating this space (unranked and in no particular order) including an overview of their social media following.

1. Major League DJz

Photo: Supplied
  • Spotify: 245K monthly listeners
  • Highest YouTube viewership: Major League Djz & Abidoza (Ft. Cassper Nyovest, Kammu Dee & Ma Lemon) – Le Plane E’Landile: 4 Million Views
    Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 1.3 million followers
  • Facebook -2.4 million followers
  • Twitter – 292K followers
  • TikTok – 78K followers
  • Total: 3.9 million followers
  • Breakout song:Slyza Tsotsi

At the tender age of five, twins Bandile and Banele Mbere (above), who were born in Boston in the United States, moved to South Africa. When they were 16, they threw the ‘Robot Party’ which ended up changing their lives. Professionally, the duo started off as promoters, having hosted some of the country’s biggest parties. “So when we started DJing, we started at our own parties when artists or DJs wouldn’t make it to their sets on time,” Mbere tells FORBES AFRICA, from the United Kingdom where the duo is currently performing.

“We started a movement called ‘new age Kwaito’ with our peers. This movement was all about making Kwaito music look pretty and young. And after that, we went into Amapiano. Amapiano is Kwaito but falls more onto the dance/house side.”

The duo is most known for their “balcony mixes” with over two million views on YouTube.

2. Focalistic

Photo: Supplied
  • Spotify: 359K monthly listeners
  • Highest YouTube viewership: Ke Star Remix ft Davido & Vigro Deep: 9.4 Million Views
    Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 1.4 million followers
  • Facebook – 2.5 million followers
  • Twitter – 272K followers
  • Total: 4.1+ million followers
  • Break out song: Ke Star ft Vigro Deep

“These brus are jealous. Here we go FORBES AFRICA interview, take one,” says Lethabo Sebetso, or Focalistic, as he chats to FORBES AFRICA. The 25-year-old artist was born and bred in South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria, in the large settlement of Ga-Rankuwa.

“My childhood was like that of many South Africans. We had good times and we had bad times.”

Sebetso’s breakout song may have been Ke Star but according to the artist, from his repertoire, the extended play (EP) that defined his career was the one he did with Major League DJz called Ase Trap Tse ke Pina Tsa Ko Kasi (It’s Not Trap It’s Music From the Hood)

“I think that was one of those moments in my career where I knew what I wanted to do and I was confident in what I was doing and changing the game in terms of vocalists who add something to Amapiano,” Sebetso says.

3. Musa Keys

Photo: Supplied
  • Spotify: 192K monthly listeners
  • Apple Music: 7+ million streams
  • Highest YouTube viewership: Musa Keys-Vula Mlomo: 6.2 million views
    Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 253K followers
  • Facebook – 7,856 followers
  • Twitter – 29.1K followers
  • Total: 289.9K followers
  • Breakout song: Samarian Boy

For 21-year-old Musa Makamu, raised in the “city of progress”, Polokwane in Limpopo, a province in South Africa, music was not his first choice; civil engineering was.

“I studied sound technology at Damelin (an Afrikaans technical school),” Makamu says. “And it was slowing my growth mainly because I felt like what was being taught, I knew it already. You know, if they teach me about sound recording, I already record people… So, then I dropped out and then I started my career.” Last year, he dropped his “first banger” and his sound is something people instantaneously become enthralled by.

“I’m different. Like my sound is different. The sound in my music is different. I personally sound different. Crazy. Not a lot of people know that I sometimes sing on my own music,” he says.

4. Soa Mattrix

Photo: Instagram
  • Spotify: 94K monthly streams
  • Highest YouTube viewership:Soa Mattrix, Soulful G Feat. Shaun 101 – Uthando (Official Music Video) – 25.5 million views
    Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 19.1K followers
  • Facebook – 50K followers
  • Twitter – 1,908 followers
  • Total: 69.1K followers

Mandla Mashakeni, or Soa Mattrix, is a two-time double Platinum status producer known for his hit 2020 song Uthando.

5. Lady Du

Photo: Supplied
  • Spotify listeners: 241K monthly followers
  • Highest YouTube viewership: Lady Du-Dakiwe: 3 million views • Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 500K followers
  • Facebook – 879K followers
  • Twitter – 26K followers
  • TikTok – 237K followers
  • Total: 1.5 Million followers
  • Breakout song: Dakiwe

Hailing from the vibrant township of Vosloorus, East of Johannesburg, Duduzile Ngwenya, also known as Lady Du, has actually not been on the Amapiano scene for long but is already dominating the genre.

“I had tried every other genre. If you go on Google and search my songs, I’ve done gospel, I’ve done house, I’ve done RnB, I’ve done hip hop,” Ngwenya says to FORBES AFRICA.

“So I tried every other genre, and I was like, ‘this is the last thing I’m going to do and then I’m going to take my money and try something else, see what I can do’. And when I tried it out, it worked out for me.”

And though she is successful in her field and the genre, there are difficulties that come with being one of the only few women in a male-dominated scene.

“In the male-dominated genre, remember, men sometimes feel like they have power. So I’ve always been a moral-before-business type of girl… And I think that is why it has taken me longer to crack the industry because I’ve never been ‘that girl’.”

6. Mr JazziQ

Photo: Supplied
  • Apple Music Streams: 23 Million
  • Highest YouTube viewership: Mr JazziQ & Busta 929 ft. Reece Madlisa, Zuma, Mpura, Riky Rick, 9umba – VSOP (Official Music Video): 4 million views
    Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 919K followers
  • Facebook – 1.5M followers
  • Twitter – 150.5K followers
  • TikTok – 118.9K followers
  • Total: 2.6 million followers
  • Breakout song: ZLELE

FORBES AFRICA asked this artist what motto he lives by every day and he uses the now popular South African slang word ‘Danko’ which translates to ‘thank you’. Mr JazziQ (Tumelo Manyoni) comes from one of the biggest townships in South Africa, Alexandra, north of Johannesburg.

“Despite the environment and our living circumstances at home, I felt it was a great educational experience. Funny enough, I would say I was quite naughty, I experimented a lot, I was quite curious from a young age,” Manyoni says. “I think that’s what has led me to always being up to something and challenging myself.”

As a genre, Amapiano means a lot to Manyoni as he never anticipated how big it would be for any artist who has dedicated his/her artistry to it.

The fact that it has reached international territories is something he relishes, especially since a number of different genres have inspired his branch
of music.

“My artistry has been heavily influenced by my love for all genres of music and fashion. I believe that a combination of these two has allowed me to express my true self through my
music and in how I present myself,” Manyoni adds.

7. MFR Souls

Photo: Twitter
  • Spotify: 108K monthly streams
  • Highest YouTube viewership: MFR Souls – Love You Tonight ft. DJ Maphorisa, Sha Sha, Kabza De Small: 7.7 million views
    Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 17K followers
  • Facebook – 81K followers
  • Twitter – 218K followers
  • TikTok – 4,332 followers
  • Total: 500K followers

This duo caught South Africa’s attention with their hit single with DJ Maphorisa, Love You Tonight, which came out last year. Tumelo ‘Maero’ Nedondwe and Tumelo ‘Force’ Mabe come from the large township of Katlehong in the East Rand, south of Germiston in Johannesburg.

8. DBN Gogo

Photo: Twitter
  • Spotify: 218K monthly streams
  • Highest YouTube viewership: DBN Gogo X Blaqnick X Masterblaq feat. Mpura, M.J & AMA Avenger- Khuza Gogo – 3.5 million views
    Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 758K followers
  • Facebook – 1.3M followers
  • Twitter – 143K followers
  • TikTok – 207.4K followers
  • Total: 2.3 million followers

One thing most prevalent during the pandemic was the love for dance challenges, such as the #JerusalemaChallenge. The one that took the country by storm was created by this female Amapiano artist, KwaZulu- Natal-born Mandisa Radebe who had the whole country doing the #DakiweChallenge in May this year.

9. The Scorpion Kings
(DJ Maphorisa & Kabza De Small)

Photo: Instagram
  • Spotify: Over 3 millions views
  • Highest YouTube viewership: DJ Maphorisa x Kabza De Small ft Mhaw Keys – Koko: 5.6 million views • Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram:
    – Kabza De Small: 1.1 million followers
    – DJ Maphorisa:1.8 million followers
  • Facebook:
    – Kabza De Small: 795K followers
    – DJ Maphorisa: 2.6 million followers
  • Twitter:
    – Kabza De Small: 688.9K followers
    – DJ Maphorisa: 4,172 followers
  • TikTok:
    – Kabza De Small: 165.6K followers
    – DJ Maphorisa: 379.3K followers
  • Total:
    Kabza De Small: 2.65 million followers
    DJ Maphorisa: 4.3 million followers

Technically speaking, The Scorpion Kings was a hit Amapiano album by the super DJ, producer and songwriters duo of DJ Maphorisa & Kabza De Small. But you can’t get one without the other, and the duo has made a huge contribution to the Amapiano culture. DJ Maphorisa (Themba Sekowe) is an award-nominated producer and DJ who hails from the small township of Soshanguve in Pretoria. Kabza De Small (Kabelo Motha) made headlines when he became one of the first Amapiano artists to make the FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 class in 2021.

10. Vigro Deep

Photo: Supplied
  • Spotify: 50K per monthly listeners
  • HighestYouTube viewership – Song International – 1.2 million views / song Ke Star remix – 9.4 million views
    Social Media ‘Net Worth’
  • Instagram – 481K followers
  • Facebook – 275K followers
  • Twitter – 167K followers
  • Total: 923K followers
  • Breakout song: International

Kamogelo Phetla, or Vigro Deep, was born and raised in a township located to the west of Pretoria named Atteridgeville. Before jumping into the world of music, the 20-year-old was a dancer. Although his father was a DJ himself in a group known as the Godfathers (specializing in deep house and deep nostalgia), his father wanted a different life for Phetla.

“I just wanted to try something new. And the funny thing is he never taught me how to play music and stuff like that. You know how parents are: ‘you must go to school’ and I was like, ‘okay, cool, I will go to school’, but he gave me an iPad. So the iPad he gave me I was doing music with at school,” Phetla says.

Amapiano as a genre is a very unique and different sound and what makes it so explosive is that it’s a mixture of different genres, like deep house and Kwaito coming together. It is the new-age Kwaito.

“I feel like you can mix anything with Amapiano. Like you can mix it with Afro, or hip hop,” Phetla adds. “So to me, it’s something that comes with happiness and where I see it from, how they sound plays and what people do and how the sound goes on is just happiness. Because it’s a whole lot of things.”

(Stats and analytics are as of September 10, 2021)

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Related Topics: #Africa, #Amapiano, #Coronavirus, #Coronavirus Outbreak, #Coronavirus Pandemic, #COVID-19, #DBN Gogo, #DJ Maphorisa, #Featured, #Focalistic.