Manchester United’s freshly haircut Paul Pogba lifts his chin in rhythm to the catchy sounds of amapiano – the South African music that has catapulted across the world.
“Ameno,” the song from Pogba’s music video, has 10 billion views on TikTok alone, fueled by dance challenges that Shaquille O’Neal, Janet Jackson and Shakira couldn’t resist.
His catchy phrase “you want bambarin Nigerian rapper Goya Menor’s recomposed version, remixed by a US-based Ghanaian producer, uses sounds that first played in South African clubs.
It is often heard exploding all over homes, car speakers at traffic lights and at parties.
Nobody knows exactly how amapiano – literally, “the strums” — has begun.
South Africans first heard it ten years ago, but in the past two years it has exploded with international tours, music awards, festivals and countless playlists.
“He has a unique rhythm style. There is an instrument in amapiano called a log drum,said TikTok music operations manager in Africa, Yuvir Pillay, better known as Sketchy Bongo.
“It really is the soul of amapiano music. It’s a really powerful and punchy bass.“
That drum sound is what people dance to, he said.
Amapiano star Kamo Mphela said the genre is “a whole cultural movement”.
“I don’t mean it’s just a sound, because it’s influenced by so many other things that are part of the hood lifestyle.“, she told AFP, wearing a black and white furry outfit reminiscent of Cruella de Vil.
**’More local than anything else’ **
Mphela shot to fame in 2018 as a dancer, but then the 22-year-old realized she could also make whatever music she wanted to dance to.
She has performed across Africa, including live at the Boiler Room in London, a universal online streaming platform.
“It’s not about what you have. Amapiano is about what you live“said the Soweto-born artist.
“You can be a kid in the back room creating a hit, and the next day you’re a superstar.“
Tumelo “Force” Mabe and Tumelo “Maero” Nedondwe, known as MFR Souls, were Amapiano pioneers. Their hit Amanikiniki has nearly 25 million views on YouTube.
“He was more into deep house, and I was more into soulful house, so we wanted something different“, Maero told AFP in their home studio near Johannesburg.
That’s when we started mixing sounds to get something really unique – that’s how amapiano started in the first place.”
This mix included kwaito, 1990s South African house music. And they replaced the vocals with piano chords.
“It’s more local than anything“, Maero said.”It’s just crude because there are no rules in amapiano. We do not master amapiano songs. Just mix and balance the sound. He needs that rawness.“
Careers created by TikTok
They also performed overseas and Force said he loved watching “people from outside South Africa, singing a song even though they have no idea what it means“.
“Nowadays, there is a new song every week. TikTok and Instagram played a huge role in amapiano – a career can be made from TikTok“Maero said.
TikTok encourages creators to engage once they notice a song is trending: this includes placement on their curated playlists, encouragement to promote the music, and advice on how to earn royalties through the app.
“The more videos you have created with your song, the more royalties you earn,said Pillay of TikTok, adding that there is a direct correlation between trends on TikTok and what makes number one on major music streaming platforms.