In the groove: Is Zimbabwe ready for Amapiano

Standard Style
If she turns up this time that will be good news for those who were disappointed by her non-appearance at the Victoria Falls Carnival.  If she turns up, those Zimbabweans who are proud to see their own doing well as a foreign artiste coming from down South will also be pleased

By Fred Zindi In April, this year, three South African-based Amapiano artistes, D.J. Maphorisa, Kabza De Small and Zimbabwean Sha sha, were scheduled to perform at the Victoria Falls Carnival but did not show up for the gig.

I do not want to appear as a naysayer, but I am told that this month, South African-based Zimbabwean Amapiano star, Sha Sha is the headlining act for the last lap of the popular Fiesta Fiesta Amapiano Series on September 4 at Alex Sports Club in Harare.

If she turns up this time that will be good news for those who were disappointed by her non-appearance at the Victoria Falls Carnival.  If she turns up, those Zimbabweans who are proud to see their own doing well as a foreign artiste coming from down South will also be pleased. About the Victoria Falls gig, Sha Sha sent her apologies to all her Zimbabwean followers in June in an official statement inserted.

Sha Sha is a professional name of Zimbabwean born singer based in South Africa ( whose real name is Charmaine Shamiso Mapimbiro)

She was born in Mutare on July 13, 1994. In South Africa, she is hailed by many as “the queen of Amapiano”. Her career began in 2011, at the age of 19 and later was discovered by another Zimbabwean artiste, Audius Mtawarira.

She gained popularity for her collaborations with South African Amapiano producers such as DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small.

Having signed a record deal with Blaq Boy Music, her debut Blossom EP, was released in 2019. She was awarded Best New International Act at the 2020 BET Awards.

Born in Mutare, Mapimbiro moved around Zimbabwe whilst growing up following her parents’ separation, often residing with her grandmother or aunts. Her music journey began after joining the choir, subsequently taking vocal and piano lessons as a child.

Whilst a teenager, one of Mapimbiro’s friends helped get one of Zimbabwe’s biggest radio stations to play her music. This radio airplay was well-received and caught the attention of singer-songwriter Audius Matawarira, who eventually became her mentor and helped her with improving her music craft.

With help from  another Zimbabwean musician, Brian Soko in 2017, the duo were connected with South African musicians such as Rouge and Priddy Ugly who featured her on their releases. During this time, Sha Sha also  met with DJ Maphorisa  through her cab driver.

The two began working on ballads together and with help from the latter, was able to meet future collaborators, Mlindo the Vocalist and Don Laka.

Sha Sha was signed to DJ Maphorisa’s label Blaqboy Music in 2018. After gaining prominence with her vocals on the songs Akulaleki by  Samthing Soweto, Nge Thanda Wena by Mlindo The Vocalist  and We Mama by Scorpion Kings. Sha Sha released her debut EP, Blossom on November 1, 2019.

On December 3, 2020, Sha Sha released the single Woza, which was well-received.

Towards the end of the June 2022, she signed a management deal with Black Major.

Ungowami featuring DJ Soa Mattrix was released on July 7, 2022 as the lead single off her latest album I’m Alive.

We are all looking forward to hearing her perform all these tunes next weekend plus more at the Fiesta Fiesta Amapiano Festival in Harare.

The Fiesta Fiesta Amapiano Series had grown to become a major event in Harare’s outdoor leisure scene considering the acceptance of Amapiano as a music genre in the country.

Amapiano (isizulu for “the pianos”) is a house music style that emerged and gained popularity in South Africa around 2012.

It is distinguished by high-pitched piano melodies, Kwaito bass lines, low tempo 90’s South African house rhythms and percussion from another local subgenre of house music known as Bacardi.

Although the genre gained popularity in Katlehong, the township east of Johannesburg there is a lot of ambiguity and debate concerning its origins, with various accounts of the musical styles in the Johannesburg townships Soweto, Alexandra Vosloorus and Katlehong.

Because of the genre’s similarities with Bacardi, some people assert the genre began in Pretoria which has had Barcadi music as their mainstay for a long period. Various accounts as to who formed the popular genre make it impossible to accurately pinpoint its origins. I have been doing research on this genre for the past five years and am still bewildered by its origins.

However, I asked a close South African friend to let me know where this Amapiano music originated. His answer was: “It’s obviously a sound from Soweto. It sounds like Kwela combined with Kwaito and fused with house music” he said. I was not in a position to argue with him. He is from Soweto and I am still trying to get to grips with this relatively new sound. It is a matter of time the whole world gets to know about Amapiano.

An important element of the genre is the use of the “log drum”, a creation which has been attributed to Mdu aka TRP.

Amapiano pioneer Kabza De Small when asked about the log drum had this to say:

“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how Mdu figured out the log drum. Amapiano music has always been there, but he’s the one who came up with the log drum sound. These boys like experimenting. They always check out new plug-ins. So when Mdu figured it out, he ran with it.“

In 2019, the genre experienced increased popularity across the continent with noted increases in digital streams and chart successes in countries far from its South African origin. According to sources, in countries like Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Botswana and Nigeria, Amapiano is now a well-known genre.

If you will recall, last year in October, prominent South African music duo, Major League Djz were scheduled to give a Amapiano performance in Harare’s leafy suburb of Borrowdale at Palm Estate in Stonechat Lane, but it never happened.  They had to come back to fulfil their engagement in March this year.

That is all in the past. Major League eventually came back to Zimbabwe on March 5, 2022 and managed to fulfil their commitment to the doomed performance of October, the previous year.

I tried in vain to get confirmation from Sha Sha’s management that they are definitely coming to Zimbabwe and will not let the fans down as happened at the Victoria Falls show. Prominent Zimbabwean lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa who had planned to fly from Harare to Victoria Falls just to watch this show was very disappointed to hear that the South Africans had not pitched up.

This disappointed revellers who had come to drown their souls into music after enduring 19 months of musical drought. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that this Victoria Falls fiasco will not be the case with Sha Sha.

The Major League twin brothers, Bandile and Banele Mbere, were expected to perform at Palm Estate in Borrowdale, Harare in a concert dubbed ‘The City Shutdown’.

Speculation as to the reasons behind this shut down in Borrowdale is still rife.

Some people say that the Borrowdale neighbours complained that a major concert of that magnitude should have not been allowed to take place in their neighbourhood without them being consulted as it allowed congestion of the street, unwanted vagrants and noise in the suburb. There was also talk of the police refusing to be bribed and blame was given to the promoters who were eventually vindicated by their bringing back Major League in March 2022.

However, there is a difference between Major League and Sha Sha. Sha Sha is a singer and Major League are DJs. People’s expectations on the two Amapiano artistes should be different.

One set is playing pre-recorded music and the other is giving a live performance.

In Amapiano, there is something beyond the rib cage-rattling drums, heart-clutching harmonies, piano solos that speak the soul’s language, haunting bass lines and uplifting percussions that make an Amapiano party transcendental. There are other-worldly powers at play on a dance floor flooded by Amapiano, all held together by feet dancing in unison. The music, liquor and communal reverie converge spiritually. It is an unspoken divinity. It is just a matter of days before we see this great Fiesta Fiesta  Amapiano Series concert happening.

Related Topics