DJs DBN Gogo and DJ Stokie have collaborated on a short film that looks to embody the true essence of the amapiano genre and how this music encapsulates the energy of South African cities while also sharing their stories from behind the decks.
The film, which doubles as an advertising campaign for liquor brand Ballantine’s, is called Stay True Cities and uses the two DJs as a case study of how best to represent where you are from, through authentic artistry.
DBN Gogo hails from Durban but grew up in Pretoria where she has spent most of her life. Real name Mandisa Radebe (28), the daughter of the former energy minister Jeff Radebe said: “I really think a lot of people are sort of gravitating towards piano because it caters for everyone, young or old. Piano is ultimately a hybrid of jazz, lounge and deep house music with percussive baselines. There are so many variants of sound in piano which makes it so easy to enjoy.”
DBN Gogo’s views on the attention the genre is garnering from other African countries are of a positive nature. “I think it’s beautiful because the goal is really to get piano to the world, it’s great to hear people adapt to our sound and fit it into their country’s music.”
She said the genre was running on a full tank of gas long before the mainstream appeal it has since garnered.
“Now that it’s a part of pop culture, we can see its influence in terms of the distinctive sound it has. Piano is now being used in other genres such as Afrobeats and is being listened to by people around the world. Audiences gravitate towards this ultimately, because of the way amapiano makes people feel – whether it’s because of the relatable lyrics or an infectious beat. Amapiano is a genre that makes people feel good.”
As for their short film, Setoki Mbatha (38) from Soweto, better known as DJ Stokie, said we should be on the look out for eye opening content.
“People should expect an experience they have never had before. Exclusive, up close and personal content with their favourite artists. How their careers started, who they worked with back in the days, achievements in the music industry and of course their future plans,” DJ Stokie boasted.
DBN Gogo added: “You can expect to be taken on an exciting journey, of the tradition of amapiano in the cities that are represented. Would like to repeat, ‘Pretoria is best’ but the beauty behind how the world has identified with the story and sounds of amapiano is something that people need to see!”
What of the longevity of the culture as both artists are servicing a country with rapidly changing demands in music? This time four years ago, gqom was the pinnacle of the local sound. Are these DJs of the opinion that amapiano is here to stay, or is it a fleeting moment in music?
Said DBN Gogo: “This is a hard question. I don’t think piano can ever be described as a fad or phase, it’s definitely way more than that. It is a part of us. But ultimately, I think if producers and artists just stay consistent with the quality of music they are creating, then it will stay above the stage of a ‘fad or phase’.”
DJ Stokie added: “I am so happy to see the sound evolving and growing daily. Artists from other African countries are even collaborating and helping us in pushing this movement to the world.”
Getting down to the brass tacks of the matter we had to inquire what are the rigid guidelines and stipulations that make a piece amapiano.
“Amapiano differs from gqom and bacardi House because it has a slower pace. It’s a fusion of deep House, soulful sounds and the earlier kwaito style,” DJ Stokie explained.
DBN Gogo said it’s quite inspirational to see the influence amapiano is having on other African artists and genres.
“It is a complement to know that our music is being enjoyed and embraced by other people in Africa,” she gushed.
DJ Stokie affirmed: “Amapiano culture is a movement proudly produced in Mzansi. Amapiano culture is a lifestyle that expresses the love South African music lovers have for one another. The audience loves the sound because it expresses the talent we have as South Africans and creating our own wave that will conquer the world.”