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Women in Amapiano


From the music studio to the dance challenge, from the lifestyle to the mpahla (slang for fashion), women have played a critical role in shaping and giving direction to the Amapiano movement. Women who are essential to Amapiano's success do not enjoy the comparative success of their male counterparts even though Spotify recorded an 87% growth in the streams of female Amapiano artists in 2023 compared to 2022.

Despite the effort, passion, skills, and talent that women have and continue to contribute to Amapiano's success, Spotify data shows that the top 10 most-streamed Amapiano artists are still men.

There are challenges that women in the global music sector face, which in the context of South Africa's youngest dance music style have become unique to South African music. To meet these challenges and work toward solutions, it is helpful for them to see positive examples of women whose careers dispel preconceived ideas about women in music. Also, creative solutions can be applied to. Indeed, the voices of women in Amapiano must be supported, celebrated, and amplified.

There is limited knowledge of female Amapiano producers during Amapiano's early development. When most Amapiano songs being released were instrumental, women were part of a core audience that attended events, shared the music, and advocated for the style within and outside of Amapiano circles. These contributions might be unknown, but it's vital that they're not ignored.

When Amapiano songs began including vocals, female vocalists played an important role in composing catchy choruses and creating phrases that the growing movement could rally behind. Kamo Mphela and Bontle Smith directed the aspirant ethos of Amapiano to Sandton when they sang, Ba re shebile, ba re galela, chomi areyeng Sandton, the chorus on the 2019 Sandton release by Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa. Similarly, Sandy Mrd captured the aspirations of many young South Africans when she sang on Dubai and also created a catchphrase that is still popular half a decade later.

Sha Sha's Tender Love has amassed more than 6.5 million listens on Spotify since its 2019 release, and her vocal presence on subsequent Amapiano releases is emblematic of a shift toward mainstream acceptance. Her singing exerts an identifiable influence on today's Amapiano singers.

The successful career trajectories of DBN Gogo, Kamo Mphela, and Uncle Waffles in particular demonstrate how taking the lead on releases has been extemporaneous with that of the Amapiano movement in South Africa and globally.

In 2022, DBN Gogo became a Spotify RADAR artist, enjoying editorial support, marketing, and promotion of her music locally and abroad. Her subsequent being named EQUAL Africa's March Ambassador and mint's Artists To Watch for 2024, alongside Uncle Waffles, proved to be a testament to the power of women in Amapiano.

Today, DBN Gogo has five tracks that have contributed to the export of Amapiano to various territories around the world. When it all began, DBN Gogo told Bubblegumclub, we never expected it to blow up the way it did. Piano was for us, and now it's literally for the world. I wish I could look into the future and tell you exactly how crazy it's going to be, but I have to wait and see just like everyone else. Today, uMa ka Ma (mother's mother), as she is known to fans, is headlining major events on the global dance music circuit.

Kamo Mphela not only channeled her popularity as a dancer on social media platforms to global musical success, but she also laid a pipeline for other women to follow. Reflecting on the role that technology has played in her career, Mphela says, Now technology has made it possible for you to be a boss girl without a male cosign. At first it was always about girls singing about going to Dubai. Now people are singing (scat) on a song. With 2023's Dalie, Mphela secured a top 10 all-time Amapiano song on Spotify. She is also in the top 20 of Spotify's most-streamed Amapiano artists from the past decade.

Uncle Waffles has helped dispel the sexist ideas about women being able to hold their own behind the decks. Since her career-launching viral moment where she's DJing an event that had partygoers enthusiastically chanting, Waffles, we want to party, she has demonstrated talent and grit, and become a sought-after DJ in the U.S., Western Europe, and the U.K. She has also become a successful artist, with two tracks, Yahyuppiyah (ft. Pcee, EeQue & Chley) and Tanzania (ft. Sino Msolo and Boibizza), that have helped export Amapiano to the world.

The female pioneers of the Amapiano movement have put paid to bigoted ideas about perseverance, musical skills, and the work ethic women have. And as the women in Amapiano amass accolades and reach new heights, they inspire the younger generation of female artists that now know whatever they dream is possible.
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