South Africa: Top 10 Amapiano hits from 2022 to keep you glued to the dance floor

By Shingai Darangwa
Posted on Thursday, 15 December 2022 15:47

Customers dance as South African amapiano dancer and singer Kamo Mphela (unseen), Amapiano Artist of 2021, performs at a nightclub in Johannesburg, on February 26, 2022. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

The sounds of amapiano have continued on their global voyage throughout 2022. At the start of December, Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa held a sold-out show in London. In attendance, among the 5000-strong crowd, was a very famous fan of the genre, Afrobeats star WizKid. As the year draws to a close, we look back at 10 songs that have kept us dancing this year.

1. Kabza De Small: ‘Eningi’ ft. Simmy, Njelic and Mhaw Keys

Self-proclaimed titles are often ego strokes that never quite match up with reality, but Kabza De Small anointing himself as the ‘King of amapiano’ has proved prophetic. Over the past four years, Kabza has proved time and time again that he is the genre’s most exemplary exponent. Earlier this year, following the rise of several other excellent amapiano DJs and producers, that title felt like it was up for grabs more than it’s ever been. How did Kabza respond? He released a stunning new album, KOA II Part 1. The album is full of gems, several of which could’ve found their way onto this list. However, it’s difficult to look past Eningi, a calling card and prayer for success that’s had most of us in a chokehold over the past few months. Take a bow, Kabza.

2. Uncle Waffles: ‘Tanzania’ ft. Tony Duardo, Sino Msolo and BoiBizza

As Uncle Waffles’ fame and acclaim as a show-stopping DJ rose steadily at the start of the year, the next natural transition for her was to start releasing her own music. Many were sceptical when she announced her debut single, ‘Tanzania’, but she quickly won over amapiano fans the world over when the song was released. Already certified multi-platinum in South Africa, ‘Tanzania’ was an instant success. Waffles, who plays the role of conductor and hostess here, enlists the perfect cast of vocalists and producers to cook up a banger of note.

3. Felo Le Tee: ‘Manca’ ft Toss

If there was an amapiano newcomer of the year award, it’d go to Toss. No debate. First, he burst onto the scene with ‘Umlando’, which shot to fame thanks to its viral dance challenge at the top of the year. The husky-voiced lyricist then proved he wasn’t a one hit wonder with his dynamic showing on talented amapiano producer Felo Le Tee’s ‘Manca’. Though many artists fade into a supporting role on Felo’s thumping beats, Toss shines here with a catchy hook that’s lent itself to yet another viral TikTok challenge. Everything he touches right now seems to turn to gold.

4. Ch’cco: ‘Pele Pele’ ft. Focalistic and Mellow & Sleazy

Ch’cco’s recent alliance with Focalistic seems like a no-brainer. The pair are the most flamboyant “rappers” in the genre and they both happen to hail from the same city, Pretoria. It was hardly a surprise, therefore, when – sometime this year – they just started appearing on stage and performing together. It just… made sense. It was only natural that the pair mint their newly-formed partnership with a collaboration. Predictably, their chemistry shines all through ‘Pele Pele’ which, believe it or not, is Ch’cco’s first solo release since his breakthrough debut hit ‘Nkao Tempela’.

5. Focalistic: ‘Tabela Hape’ ft. Kabza De Small, Mellow & Sleazy, Myztro and M.J

Having Kabza De Small and Mellow & Sleazy producing on the same song feels unfair. Like some sort of cheat code. Somehow, that’s exactly what happened on ‘Tabela Hape’, which was the lead single to Focalistic’s new album, Ghetto Gospel. After teasing the song for months at shows before its official release, virtually every amapiano fan knew the song’s lyrics by the time it came out in late October. Predictably, the production is irresistible and Focalistic matches it with one of his most dazzling and flamboyant lyrical performances to date.

6. DBN Gogo, Sino Msolo, Young Stunna, Kamo Mphela and Busiswa: ‘Love & Loyalty’ (Believe)

Young Stunna doesn’t have a solo release of his own this year, but he’s certainly left his mark on the amapiano scene through his collaborations. The record-breaking ‘Sete’ is the most obvious example of this, but it’s difficult to ignore his recent contribution to the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack standout, ‘Love & Loyalty (Believe)’. In the song, which features an all-star cast of amapiano vocalists, it’s Stunna’s contribution that truly elevates the record. Sino Msolo, Kamo Mphela and Busiswa also play their roles well as the supporting cast.

7. Kabza De Small: ‘Khusela’ ft. Msaki

There’s an argument to be made that Msaki is amapiano’s most irrepressible vocalist. She has this ethereal aura and penmanship that make her music such a spiritual experience. This skillset is on full display on ‘Khusela’, the intro to Kabza De Small’s magnus opus album, KOA II Part 1. On ‘Khusela’, Msaki invokes her upbringing in the Presbyterian church as she beautifully paraphrases one of the hymns her mother and her family sang while she was growing up. It’s as close to amapiano perfection as you’re likely to ever hear.

8. Daliwonga: ‘Abo Mvelo’ ft. Mellow & Sleazy and M.J 

Daliwonga has only released one song this year. You wouldn’t guess it judging by how booked and busy the amapiano vocalist has been through the year. To be fair, ‘Abo Mvelo’ isn’t just any song. It has become one of those rare gems that sends the crowd into pandemonium as soon as the DJ presses play. It’s been so popular since its release that the viral visualiser alone has raked in over 15 million views on YouTube, which is more views than virtually all artists on this list have managed to accumulate on their actual music videos. As always, Mellow & Sleazy came through with a superb beat while M.J, who’s one of the top breakout acts of the year, delivers a strong verse as the cherry on top.

9. Pabi Cooper, Focalistic, Ch’cco: ‘Banyana Ke Bafana’ ft. LuuDaDeekay and Nobantu Vilakazi

Based on numbers, Pabi Cooper is now the top female amapiano artist. A big part of her astronomical rise this year has been thanks to her March release, ‘Banyana Ke Bafana’, which was her first collaboration with Focalistic and Ch’cco. Following its break-out success, the trio have started loosely referring to themselves as the Pitori Champions League. During Focalistic’s recent interview on The Sobering Podcast, he teased that the trio had more up their sleeves in 2023. What a tantalising prospect.

10. Mellow & Sleazy: ‘Chipi Ke Chipi’ ft. Justin99

This was the year in which the dynamic amapiano DJ and producer duo Mellow & Sleazy gave Scorpion Kings (Kabza De Small & DJ Maphorisa) a run for their money. Sure, Kabza and Phori are, for the third year in a row, the two best performing artists across major streaming platforms in SA for 2022, but their stranglehold isn’t as unanimous as it was before. Nevertheless, solo releases aside, Mellow & Sleazy have arguably been more prolific and influential this year through their collaborations with the likes of Focalistic, Daliwonga, Ch’cco and Pabi Cooper. Their production work for other artists has been blaring loudly throughout clubs across the continent, but their single ‘Chipi Ke Chipi’ has been their most prominent hit of the year as primary artists. It has no vocals, just a hard-hitting logdrum with their trademark musicality in full view.

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