Kabza De Small is a foundational figure in amapiano, a subgenre of South African house music that’s taking over that country and poised to blow up worldwide. Alone and as a part of Scorpion Kings with DJ Maphorisa — a super-producer with Drake and Major Lazer credits, whom Kabza once admired from afar — De Small has helped to elevate the genre to new heights in style and popularity. “He started a huge trend,” Maphorisa says of Kabza, with reverence. “Amapiano started as instrumentals in the beginning. [Kabza] added voices and then the whole game changed. He really played a big role to all the kids who are singing on Amapiano songs or rapping on Amapiano songs. That’s why I had to partner with him.”
Here are six of Kabza’s favorite amapiano tracks.
Musa Keys feat. Sir Trill & Nobantu Vilakazi, “Vula Mlomo”
Kabza calls this “the song to get the people up and dancing.” It’s immediately arresting, with light drums that give way to delicate piano and sweet, comforting singing that becomes more urgent and frenetic with time.
De Mthuda & Ntokzin feat MalumNator, “uMsholozi”
The earworm vocals in “uMsholozi” don’t kick in until there’s only one minute and 45 seconds left of this layered dance track that’s been Shazamed over 126,000 times. They’re worth the wait. “‘uMsholozi’ is an amapiano anthem that ignites any environment,” says Kabza.
MDU aka TRP, “16 Inch (Dance Mix)”
At 5 minutes and 20 seconds, “16 Inch (Dance Mix)” is on the shorter side of the amapiano spectrum, where popular songs can be as long as nine minutes. Kabza calls it “everyone’s favorite viral song to lift [their] arms to and move [to],” and its virtual lack of lyrics highlight the prominent shakers and deliberate drums.
DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small & TRESOR, “Folasade”
Kabza does a little self-praise here, calling “Folasade” “a beautiful serenade.” The single from Scorpion King’s April album Rumble in the Jungle is sung in English by Tresor, a Congolese vocalist. Folasade is a Yoruba name implying honor and regality.
Kabza De Small ft Daliwonga, “iLog Drum”
Kabza says this song from last year’s album, I Am the King of Amapiano: Sweet & Dust, is “a love letter dedicated to the root of amapiano, the log drum.” While Amapiano producers can create synthetic log drum patterns, physical log drums are slitted wooden or bamboo cylinders that may date back as early as the 6th century.
DJ Maphorisa & Tyler ICU ft Sir Trill, Daliwonga and Kabza De Small, “Banyana”
Kabza declares the title track from producer and DJ Tyler ICU’s joint EP with DJ Maphorisa “a summer anthem!” With its heavy pulse and catchy vocal cadences, “Banyana” can create a party wherever it’s played.