On Monday 30th August I was invited by Afronation Parties to join their red iconic tour bus which was travelling around the capital with an open top deck where South African Major League DJ twins were hosting an afternoon of music for friends in the UK before headlining their show at the docklands East Winter Gardens venue. What better than to mix business with pleasure, so I invited Channel 4 News to join us and hear all about the music genre thats been overtaking charts, radios, music festivals and parties!
Africa finds itself in the global limelight more and more these days, gifting us different sounds to the music space.
The Major League DJZ are twins, and are both cultural ambassadors of AMAPIANO- the latest music genre from south Africa, causing excitement with music fans. They spent a few weeks touring here this summer, with sell out shows across the country- and sharing the music with British fans. In the news piece for Channel 4 News they shared what the reaction of the audiences has been like across the UK.
My father’s ancestors are East African- Kenyan- and to see the journey of various genres of music from across the African continent is awesome to observe. The twins told me what it meant to them that amapiano from South Africa is an internationally recognised sound being played in countries like Canada, Belgium, Spain, Britain & what this means for the future of the sound.
We discussed what draws people to the amapiano sound, what makes the sound uniquely South African, why its been successful crossing over, and its history.
We talked about why most amapiano isn’t sung in English- and how much that might stop it becoming bigger, or its global potential. (South Africans can be put off by English language in their local songs)
There was a time when music stars would try and make music with American accents. Amapiano proudly embraces South African language- fans are singing along without knowing what the words mean…I finally understand the fans all across Asia who i filmed when on tour with Jay Z and they were singing along without always understanding what they were saying.
So many talented South African artists have worked tirelessly in creating and establishing the genre. but are they getting enough credit?
Amapiano, is still in its infancy stage but collaborations between SA acts and music stars from other parts of the African continent are happening, as well as European and American music stars attempting to make amapiano songs but have met with negative response because they haven’t always done it with giving credit to its originators.
MAJOR LEAGUE DJZ are actually producers as well as DJ’s. They were introduced to the amapiano sound whilst they were dj’s mainly hip hop originally. They were born in Boston/USA, because their family were in exile as their father was a politician. they then returned to South Africa as 4-year-olds.
The twins then promoted high school parties and now because they have dual nationality passports, are able to travel across borders more easily than other local SA acts might be able to.
Their parents met via their mutual friendship with the South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela! …and the twins recall being surrounded with music as kids as their dad had them play piano often.
Their name Major League came about due to their love of baseball from their time spent as kids in USA. In fact, their ” Major League Gardens” events brand is well known in SA, the experience see’s music with games, sports /skating /food/drinks.
The twin DJs are also known for creating unique BALCONY MIXES which is them djing on famous balconies across the world. How has the pandemic impacted your music and other SA music acts, and how did you all keep your sound going?
AMAPIANO’S SOCIAL AND POLITICAL IMPACT
When amapiano first emerged, the music was Initially criticised and dismissed as inferior by the usual radio gatekeepers, but its township sound is now one of the biggest music genres in South Africa – the sound blew-up without traditional radio and media support. (It was shared initially via social media and Youtube and whatsapp instead of radio.
Amapiano has come from humble beginnings, to now being a staple sub-genre in South Africa thats taken the music world by storm,…but It’s not just the music that has fans excited, but also the dancing – see the Netflix film-JIVA and the millions of viral dances on Tik- Tok.
Another way that Amapiano has become popular is amongst young South Africans and social media influencers. They use amapiano songs in their videos and that’s how the music became popular.
Interestingly, amapiano has helped young black South Africans form their own identity. Amapiano acts have developed and created their own music business ecosystem and can perform live internationally and have a career without the traditional gatekeepers support.
There’s been news of constant conflict and political unrest in south Africa- yet amapiano has helped young south Africans deal with this by creating a distraction and focus to build a music business ecosystem pretty much like the grime music genre has done for young British black music acts.
The ultimate goal, the twins shared, was to take the sound to the world ”#pianototheworld” and win a Grammy!