Amapiano is taking over international dance floors.
According to notable South African musicians and DJs, amapiano, a bright, jazzy dance music derived from local house influences and global R&B, has remained the country’s top genre even during the pandemic.
At Afropunk’s 2019 New Year’s Eve party in South Africa, DJ Moma was scheduled to deliver a 45-minute set following headliner Solange Knowles. He was fully aware of the situation. The DJ, who was born in Sudan and bred in Paris and Queens, has returned to South Africa on several occasions to immerse himself in the country’s music culture. Around 20,000 people gathered on Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill, which originally housed Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s prison camp. “I started playing trap. It was a huge success with them. “I went into some Afrobeats, and they loved it,” Moma says. “Then I just said, ‘Are my yanos in the building?'” she explains.
Moma played Semi Tee of Soweto’s “Labantwana Ama Uber,” a success in the booming amapiano style of South African club music. “Yanos” is slang for the folks who create and consume it, which seemed to be everyone that night. Moma stood there watching as a sea of admirers began to dance, tossing limp fists in the air and gyrating like a pouncing cat. He says, “I’ve never felt anything like it.” “It was incredible.”
According to notable South African musicians and DJs, amapiano, a bright, jazzy dance music derived from local house influences and global R&B, has remained the country’s top genre even during the pandemic. Busiswa, a South African house artist who has performed with Beyoncé and whose catalog includes the subgenres gqom, kwaito, and, most recently, amapiano, says, “I believe it’s the first time a genre of ours dominates our own airplay more than overseas songs.” While amapiano is popular in South Africa, it has also spread elsewhere. The #amapiano hashtag has received over 570 million views on TikTok. The AmaPianoGrooves playlist on Spotify has seen a 116 percent rise in global streaming over the last year, including a 75 percent increase in the United States.
Though West African Afrobeats has reigned musically in South Africa for years, as it has in the rest of the African diaspora, the country also has a long history of house music, which other African artists, including Afrobeats giants, are now delving into.
DJ Moma explains that South Africa’s particular house music is derived from New York’s soulful house movement. “It’s almost heresy to say, but they basically took all the qualities of New York house music — jazzy chord progressions, Afro drumming, soulful vocals — and improved it. Especially the drum programming, which has an African feel to it.” Kwaito arose in the mid-1990s, a subgenre born as the country celebrated the end of apartheid. It’s a 105-bpm mash-up of African melodies, hip-hop, reggae, and American house.
While clearly happy folk music such as Congolese soukous and Côte d’Ivoire’s coupé-décalé grew in popularity in the north and northwest, South African house remained conservative. “The melancholy was the one element that made [South African house] uniquely South African,” Moma explains. “These are people who have gone through things that no one else can comprehend.”
As Hip-Hop Turns 48, Here Is A Brief History of African Hip-Hop
The economic paralysis of New York City, particularly the neglected black and Latino areas in the Bronx, spawned the cultural shockwave that would become known as hip hop in the mid to late 1970s. While hip hop music originated in the Bronx, it is a part of and refers to a long line of African diasporic and black American cultural traditions. Much of the literature on hip hop recounts the culture’s evolution from a music-and-dance-focused phenomenon developed for and by “on the block” to a dominant global youth culture. Many people link rap to the West African griot heritage, which is the art of roaming storytellers who are noted for their understanding of local contexts and outstanding vocal abilities. (more…)
Is Metaverse The Next Big Thing After The Internet?
The metaverse was originally envisioned as a scenario for dystopian science fiction novels in which virtual universes serve as a haven for people fleeing disintegrating societies. Now, the concept has evolved into a Silicon Valley moonshot objective, and it has become a popular topic of conversation among entrepreneurs, venture funders, and tech behemoths.
The goal is to build a world that is similar to the internet, but where users may walk around and communicate with one another in real-time using digital avatars. In principle, you could sit around a virtual meeting table with coworkers from all over the world (rather than staring at their 2D faces on Zoom) and then go over to a virtual Coffeehouse to meet up with your mother, who lives across the country.
Zuckerberg has been touting his vision for turning Facebook (FB) into a “metaverse corporation” in recent weeks, stating that he first considered the idea in middle school. Zuckerberg described the technology as “the successor of the mobile internet” when the business announced the formation of a new metaverse product division.
Epic Games launched a $1 billion investment round in April to support its metaverse goals, pushing the Fortnite maker’s worth to roughly $30 billion. Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella said last week that his company is working on establishing the “enterprise metaverse.” In June, venture capitalist Matthew Ball assisted in the development of an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that allows consumers to invest in the metaverse market, which includes companies such as graphics chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA) and game platform Roblox (RBLX).
Despite the current hype cycle, the concept remains nebulous, and a fully functional metaverse is likely years and billions of dollars away – if it ever happens. Big firms joining the conversation now may just want to reassure investors that they won’t lose out on the next big thing, or that their investments in virtual reality, which has yet to garner widespread commercial appeal, will pay off in the long run. And, in the case of Facebook, exaggerating the metaverse’s long-term promise could be a good strategy to divert attention away from the company’s current problems.
Whatever the motivations, major questions remain, including how tech companies will handle safety and privacy issues in the metaverse, as well as whether individuals actually want to spend so much of their time within a virtual reality simulation.
“My biggest issue about the metaverse is whether we’re ready,” said Avi Bar-Zeev, the founder of AR and VR consultancy RealityPrime and a former employee of Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, where he worked on the HoloLens.
“Are we emotionally evolved enough to get beyond the secure separation of screens between us and typing words?” he wondered. “Are we safe to start communicating with each other on a more personal level, or will the **holes ruin it for everyone?”
What exactly is a “metaverse”?
The term “metaverse” was popularized in the 1992 cyberpunk novel “Snow Crash,” in which the main character Hiro Protagonist — a hacker and, for a brief period, a pizza deliveryman — uses it to escape from his life, which he lives in a 20-by-30-foot storage container with a roommate in a bleak world where the government has been replaced by corrupt corporations.
The metaverse is a platform for virtual creativity in that story, but it’s also plagued by issues such as technology addiction, prejudice, harassment, and violence, which occasionally cross over into the actual world.
That’s a big cry from the upbeat visions presented by Zuckerberg and others. But there’s one hint that the metaverse is still a long way off: no one can agree on what it is or may be.
Experts in the field tend to agree on a few important characteristics of the metaverse, such as the idea that users will feel “embodiment” or “presence,” which means they’ll feel as if they’re within a virtual world with other people, viewing things in first-person and likely 3D. It will also be able to accommodate a large number of users who will be able to engage with one another in real-time.
On the call, Zuckerberg added, “You can kind of think of [the metaverse] as an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at.”
The metaverse, like the internet today, will be an ecosystem constructed over time by many different companies employing a range of technologies, rather than a single technology that is turned on all at once. According to Jesse Alton, a leader at Open Metaverse, a group establishing open source metaverse standards, “ideally, those various portions of the ecosystem will be integrated and interoperable.”
“In their favorite Xbox game, someone could win a blazing sword, keep it in their inventory, and later in VR, they can show it to their friend and have their friend wield it,” said Alton, who is also the founder of extended reality firm AngellXR. “It’s the ability to move [knowledge] from one world to another, regardless of the platform on which it’s stored.”
Some elements of the metaverse have already been discovered. Fortnite, an online game in which users battle, socialize, and develop virtual worlds with millions of other players, can give users an early taste of how it will work. And other people have already invested tens of thousands of dollars on virtual dwellings to secure their slice of metaverse real estate.
What’s the big deal about it now that everyone’s talking about it?
The metaverse is an old concept that seems to gather traction every few years, only to drift away in favor of more immediate chances. Those working on this technology, maybe predictably, find hints that this time may be different.
“A lot of the people who were working on it before are still participating,” Alton explained. “It’s just that we’ve been waiting for certain technological improvements.”
Mobile device processors, gaming systems, internet infrastructure, virtual reality headsets, and cryptocurrencies are all essential building elements for the metaverse’s creation and user adoption.
Furthermore, many people may feel more comfortable connecting digitally than they did two years ago after the pandemic drove most of the world to work, learn, and socialize from home, which internet businesses may be looking to capitalize on.
Despite the fact that [a transformation like] this is always a multi-decade, iterative process… there is an unmistakable sense that the underlying components are coming together in a way that feels very fresh and very different over the last few years.
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