Bass Lines: The Links Between Amapiano and Kwaito

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From sound, aesthetic, themes and practice, both Amapiano and Kwaito have contributed toward South Africa’s distinct groove culture. (Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi)
From sound, aesthetic, themes and practice, both Amapiano and Kwaito have contributed toward South Africa’s distinct groove culture. (Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi)

On July 12, South African DJ/producer extraordinaire, Kabza De Small - who is widely regarded as the ‘King of Amapiano’ - took to Twitter to express this: "Kwaito is the foundation of amapiano”. It shouldn’t have been controversial.

No doubt, the genre has morphed since its early underground days as a sub-shoot of keyboard-heavy deep house. Many recent amapiano hits hardly contain the keyboard solos that honoured the genre with its name. Instead, the log drum features prominently as the core sound. And where the clavichord drove the melody, this rendition of amapiano relies heavily on vocalisations in the form of singing, chanting and even rap.

Like Amapiano, Kwaito came about as a modification of house music. During the late 80s, DJs like Oscar “Oskido” Mdlongwa - one of the architects of Kwaito - started remixing (“international”) house tracks by slowing the tempo down to between 90 and 128 beats-per-minute (bpm).

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