TENO AFRIKA - "AMAPIANO SELECTIONS" LP
But at first, South Africa’s youngest electronic music movement lived underground with a small, loyal following. “Amapiano is a genre that I chose because I have a passion for it,” says Teno “I started following amapiano in 2016 because I wanted to explore how it’s produced. It was not taken seriously in our country.”
The record’s opening track, poignantly named “Ambassadors,” is the sound de jour in this current moment of amapiano’s evolution. Here organ solos riff over demure drums, bass and percussion for a sophisticated sound that is palatable to both seasoned and uninitiated ears. Teno Afrika does something similar on Conka, but this time referencing the Kwaito-influenced Amapiano popularised by DJ Sumbody and Cassper Nyovest’s collaborations and Focalistic’s lyrical dribbling which earned him the nickname Pitori Maradona (Maradona of Pretoria).
The next two tracks, “Storytellers” and “8 Ubers" as well as tracks 6 and 7 (“Lerato La Bass” and “Trip to Vlakas”) are Teno Afrika’s hat tip to the sound evolving in the townships on the outskirts of Pretoria (Pitori to the hip) known locally as gong gong amapiano. From the home of diBicardi, the percussion and groove of the latter two especially are distinct for their almost off-tempo stride, an identifying feature of diBacardi. The high-pitched keyboard builds to a delayed break; once there, the drum is almost turned inside out to create a bass-line that becomes the driving force behind the track.
As a counterpoint to the unrefined, chest rattling coarseness, fifth in the line-up “Smooth Criminal” is carried by the melody, given ample breathing space and balances the heavy bass on its back. Teno Afrika is referencing Harvard amapiano, named after the Ivy League US university for its supposedly more educated approach to production.
Interestingly, Teno Afrika only gives vocals prominence on the closing track “Chants of Africa.” As a way of making their music recognizable and relatable for broadcast, amapiano producers have sometimes overly relied on vocals in the form of singing, catch-phrases and party refrains for the purpose. “It was my decision not to use vocals on this project,” says Teno “The reason is I wanted people to feel my instrumentals and style because this is my first album.” On his closing track the young producer gives a glimpse of the considered approach to music which buoys anticipation for greater things from his future releases.
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