Kabza de Small: The sound of S

Image via Twitter: #ThePianoKing

Kabza de Small: The sound of Spotify success for amapiano muso

Kabza de Small has released his joint sophomore album, ‘The Return of the Scorpion Kings’, with DJ Maphorisa, netting the highest streams for a South African artist up until now on Spotify. Here’s everything you need to know about the muso and the Amapiano dance culture.

Kabza de Small: The sound of S

Image via Twitter: #ThePianoKing

There’s no doubt about it. The amapiano music trend isn’t just a passing phase engulfing the country, rather it’s become synonymous with the dynamic and energetic dance culture that is so rich and prevalent locally.

At the forefront of this popular dance genre, is 26-year-old music artist Kabelo “Kabza de Small” Motha who is currently topping of Spotify, beating other top South African musicians, such as AKA, Prince Kaybee and Snotkop.

Kabza produced The Return of the Scorpion Kings as part of a joint effort with DJ Maphorisa who has worked with Drake and is behind hit tracks for artists, such as DJ Tira, Busiswa, KO and Wizkid.

Released on 29 November, The Return of the Scorpion Kings features Micasa, the late legendary Hugh Masekela and Thandiswa Mazwai who has also just made a comeback album with Bongo Maffin. It has 15 tracks which have been well received so far.

From paid by beers to the top: Kabza’s rise to fame

Credited with championing amapiano and influencing its rise in popularity, Kabza was born in Mpumalanga and grew up in Pretoria.

He latched onto the house sound in 2013 and began playing at gigs in 2016. In a documentary produced by Papercutt films, titled Shaya!, Kabza says he played free gigs and would have to catch rides with friends.

He was also paid R500 and in beers at one point.

“I have been hustling for a long time. We struggled, played at gigs for free, we didn’t have a car to get there and sometimes I’d have to ask someone to give me a lift to get to work. We never gave up because we knew what we wanted to accomplish.

On how he began his DJ career, he said at school he was known as a beatmaker who would mesh out his beats using a ruler and his hands on classroom tables.  In addition, hanging out with an older crowd helped him refine his ear for music.

“Music has always been inside of me. I got Fruity Loops [music software system] and found it difficult, obviously some people knew how it works. They knew how to master it but they wouldn’t show me how to work with it because then I would be a threat.

“So I just used to press whatever…I didn’t understand the software. I started doing mixtapes and would play them in two DVDs, pretending to mix them. People then noticed I have an ear and began inviting me to play at house parties.”

He released his first album, Avenue Sounds, in 2016 and in 2018 had his first hit with Umshove, featuring DJ Leehleza.

DJ Maphorisa began co-producing music with Kabza at the beginning of the year, resulting in their smash hit album and follow up offering.  Nominated for a DSTV Viewers Choice Award for Favourite DJ, Kabza has been on tour in Europe and is set to play across the country at various venues.

The eclectic sounds of amapian ‘oddity’

Described as an infusion of piano keys, an organ overlaid with a heavy bass that resonates deeply with house, gospel and jazz – the genre is considered eclectic with influences of dance music which dominate the sound.

Fader magazine describes the sound as an oddity.

“Amapiano is an oddity that places the fruity elements of a beat – keys, synths and pads – at its core. The bass, which is lifted from 90s kwaito, is secondary, and gets bolstered by kick rolls that come and go.”

Popular amapiano MC and artist Mark Khoza said in the documentary Shaya! that it was started by Kabza in 2013 who called it “i-number” at the time and MFR Soul who aptly gave it the name.

The birthplace was in the Mamelodi, Soshanguve and Hammanskraal townships of Pretoria with it evolving to include Alexandra, Soweto and the East Rand.

The sound was first played on YFM by DJ Da Kruk an urban culture specialist who gave it a chance after several radio playlist managers turned it down. Today it is in high rotation, enjoys high streaming numbers on Apple, Spotify and other music services with DJs touring Europe and earning a lucrative income.

Also read – Oskido ‘Akhiwe’ new album: Where to download, tracklist, fan reaction

Move to the beat of ‘pouncing cat and bottle’

Together with the Amapiano trend, the pouncing cat and bottle dance styles have also become well known, with DJ Papers said to have popularised dancing with a bottle.

Like the dab which was synonymous with hip-hop, no Amapiano song is complete without the pouncing cat which sees the dancer mimicking the movements of the animal by bobbing their head up and down while placing their hands in front of their body.

Watch a tutorial here.

Check out three of Kabza de Small’s best hits below

Sha Sha – Tender Love ft. DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small

Samthing Soweto – “Akulaleki” ft. Sha Sha, DJ Maphorisa & Kabza De Small

Kabza De Small – Umshove FT Leehleza