Towards the beginning of the documentary SHAYA!, the filmmakers note that amapiano “was born in the soil of the streets of South Africa, so it belongs to all of us”. Sentiment reflects the organic and upward growth of the genre; before its massive popularity across South Africa, it was an underground sensation ignored by almost all local radio stations. It’s also emblematic of the accessible and welcoming aura of music: in recent years, rappers and producers who have focused on other South African styles have tried their hand at amapiano. It’s just sounds irresistible.
Amapiano’s winning formula is relatively simple: log drum loops, jazzy piano melodies and soulful vocals in a deep house shell. The tempo hovers around 110 bpm, an ideal point: the Poppier tracks find a comfortable range to bask in sunny grooves, while the more moody songs turn out to be hypnotic thanks to the slow, hard bangs of the syncopated drums that sink. deeper than gqom’s high tempo frenzy. Native Soul, the Pretoria-based teenage duo of Kgothatso Solomon Tshabalala and Alfred Zakhele Mhlanga, mostly work in the latter mode, and their debut Dreams of adolescence puts a refreshing emphasis on production. Amapiano incorporated the vocals since 2018 and the lushest slopes, above all of late, put them in the foreground, but Dreams of adolescence is largely speechless; making this one of the most cohesive and invigorating Amapianos to date is no small feat.
The economic pace is Dreams of adolescence‘, and’ The Beginning ‘kicks off the album with a familiar frame: sparse drums and periodic synth blips. Soon it transforms into a moody atmosphere, and as the musical elements come together, the track maintains an airy and cautious vibe. It’s a clever maneuver: just as the song risks dissolving in fog, vocal flourishes and percussive strikes erupt to imbue it with dynamic energy and tantalizing uncertainty. A lot of Dreams of adolescence similarly feels sprawling; with each song exceeding five minutes, Native Soul leaves enough time to relax before injecting surprise into the mix. “The Journey,” for example, begins by bending house piano chords over a nimble bassline and flute, only so that rough, processed vocals come in for brief but thrilling passages.
These little details make Dreams of adolescence captivating. Dark synth pads cast obscurity over “Long Lasting”, while thin keyboard plinks reinforce its sci-fi mystique. As an assortment of splash cymbals, handclaps, and synth beats intertwine and change rhythm, they run through an equally granular array of emotions: cryptic at one point, strange at others, then, for a brief, outwardly dramatic flash. But Native Soul can also do bangers. “Burning Desire” is about the massive propulsion felt in its flogging drums and synths, and although this is one of the more tumultuous tracks, it’s still deliberately reserved, projecting both finesse and masterful control over the proceedings.
As impressive as Native Soul’s work is, they clearly understand that they are building on a foundation laid down by others. “Letter to Kabza De Small” is named after one of the most influential producers of Amapiano, as it makes laser-type synths dance alongside piano melodies in a grandiose performance, a worthy tribute to the “king of the amapiano “. The title “Dead Sangoma” refers to traditional South African healers who, in a ceremony, channel an ancestral spirit and dance to the sound of drums. While the drum patterns are not the same here, there is a deference to music as something that can set in and leave you in a trance state. Native Soul accomplishes this same goal throughout Dreams of adolescence: They make sure you’re transfixed.
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