Blast from the past: Popular kwaito group Trompies. Image via Instagram @trompies_sa

What ‘killed’ kwaito…Or is it still alive in amapiano and hip-hop?

Once upon a time, kwaito was one of South Africa’s biggest and hottest genres. The South African explores its roots, sounds and legacy.


Blast from the past: Popular kwaito group Trompies. Image via Instagram @trompies_sa

What once dominated the South African music industry is now almost an afterthought. Kwaito reigned supreme as one of the biggest genres in the country.

From the music to the clothing and the dances, kwaito is a notable driving force in how some music sounds today, but the question remains: What happened to it?


As per Wikipedia, kwaito can be defined as “a music genre that emerged in Soweto during the 1990s. It is a variant of house music featuring the use of African sounds and samples. Typically at a slower tempo range than other styles of house music, Kwaito often contains catchy melodic and percussive loop samples, deep bass lines, and vocals”.

In a South African context, what’s important to note is that the genre rose to fame before hip-hop, but that the sounds of kwaito are present in South African hip-hop music right now.

A large part of what our parents listened to back in the day was kwaito music. According to music enthusiast and blogger Lesego Thema, the genre dominated South Africa between 1994 and 2011. 

Kwaito music has an easily identifiable sound. The genre’s vocalists mostly have raspy voices and the music’s production is driven by catchy sounds that all South Africans are still familiar with today.

If one ever had to play Mandoza’s Nkalakatha or Magarimbe’s Sister Bethina in a large crowd of South Africans, there will certainly be screams of excitement, followed by lively dancing.

Other artists who rose to fame in the heyday of kwaito include the legendary group Trompies, Durban’s Big Nuz, Zola 7, Professor, and L’vovo Derrango. 

ALSO READ: What is kwaito music and where did it start?


There is always much debate about when exactly hip-hop became a popular genre in South Africa. One thing that’s for sure is Cape Town’s DJ Ready D played a massive role in growing South African hip-hop with YoungstaCPT previously praising the award-winning DJ for pioneering hip-hop. 

A lot of hip-hop and amapiano artists use hints of kwaito in their music today.

Examples of this are one of Cassper Nyovest’s early hits Skeptedaba and Riky Rick’s Stay Shining. A more recent example is K.O’s 2021 single K:HOVA. Other notable examples include Kwesta’s Vur Vai and AKA’s F.R.E.E. 

All three genres meet more often than one thinks. At the end of 2020 Riky Rick released his hit UNGAZINCISI featuring Focalistic which was praised for it’s amapiano and hip-hop fusion. Kwaito presents itself in how the lyrics are delivered. The two delivered punchy verses and blew the song up. 

Sama-nominated amapiano producer Kabza de Small mentioned on Twitter in 2020 that Kwaito was the foundation of amapiano. We hear this a number of times in amapiano music with the use of ‘log drums’ in the music. One notable track would be Kabza’s iLog Drum featuring Daliwonga. 

It’s clear that Kwaito intersects with Hip-Hop and Amapiano in a number of ways. 


If the genre still contributes so much to where South African music is right now. What happened to it? Professor might have the answer. Speaking to Boitumelo Kgobotolo, Professor mentioned that kwaito is a genre that ultimately creates new sounds. 

He further mentions that when artists from other genres use kwaito sounds in their music, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything good for kwaito artists. 

“That makes artists and songs within the kwaito genre to be reduced. Take gqom and amapiano for instance. It’s kwaito. They are trying to kill our music.”


Kwaito can easily be categorised as one of the biggest genres that has passed through the South African music scene. 

Has it made a difference in the music? Yes! Will it continue to grow as an independent genre? We’ll have to find out.