What’s Next For Afro House?

What’s Next For Afro House?

In the last decade, Afro House has exploded onto the world stage. But what’s next for the genre? We speak to seven artists, who dig into the history and meaning behind the genre, to find out.

In less than a decade, Afro house has exploded beyond the borders of its original home in South Africa, becoming a dominant genre on the global stage, with international stars playing at some of the biggest clubs and festivals in the world. 

In that time, an entire Afro House ecosystem has emerged, with Afro House labels and local club nights popping up, heavily supported by a new cadre of Afro House DJs and producers — who’ve helped diversify the genre in the process. 

Which brings us to the obvious question: what’s next for Afro House? To find out, we spoke to seven artists from across the world, who also help us define the sound and its origins, discuss the potential of “whitewashing” the genre, and offer thoughts on the emergence of Afro house-adjacent genre, amapiano.

Kitty Amor

How do you define Afro House? 

Afro House is the musical baby of kwaito, tribal, deep and soulful house music that is heavily derived from South Africa. Although there are common production elements that have been closely identified as Afro house, it is a deep-rooted sound that is based on African history. The music is a feeling that tells a story and takes listeners on a journey.  

Should it come from somewhere in Africa? Or be made by people from the African continent, or with African roots? Or can anyone make Afro House?

I don’t think it is right to dictate who can make Afro House music, however, I think the essence of the music should always positively reflect or involve people from Africa. The culture and spirit are what embody Afro House, and I think it can be quite challenging or misleading if the music comes from people who have never embraced the culture or history by visiting and spending time in the Motherland, do not have African roots, or aren’t from the continent. 

Has the genre changed since it first broke outside of the African continent? 

The genre has changed in the sense that it has grown, evolved, and increased its reach across the globe. The quality of production and mastering has massively increased, allowing for better distribution of the music. More people have created independent labels with better infrastructure that can gain them access to distribution and PR companies, who can better sell producers’ music on digital music platforms. Europe and the US have shown a remarkable appetite for Afro House, which has influenced producers to make the music envisioning the spaces they wish to have it played. With some having a more Afro Tech approach, producers are refining their production with sound elements that are made to be played in iconic club venues such as Hï Ibiza and Brooklyn Mirage, as well as stadium spaces. 

Are you worried the genre will be whitewashed?

I am not worried that the genre will be whitewashed because as long as the genre is led, controlled, and heavily recognised by its African contributors, then it cannot be whitewashed. It is important for the diaspora that the music is not exported globally leaving out the pioneers, artists, DJs and contributors that have worked hard in the last decade to get the genre to where it is today. We must see these playmakers take up space in festivals, conferences, and funded events. 

Does the term box you in? We’ve heard of festivals relegating Afro House to side stages, for instance. 

I don’t believe the term puts us in a box but I do think promoters forget that this is still house music (great house music at that) and it is African electronic music — therefore it should be represented in the same way as other house music sub-genres. House music started from the underground and yet they are deep and soulful house DJs playing on main stages so Afro House deserves this also. With that said, things do take time and I think there is enough evidence to say that this genre is on an upward trajectory, and this should reflect in the live event spaces across the globe. 

Where do you feel amapiano belongs? 

I think amapiano is deserving and best suited to standing alone as its own genre. Amapiano is a genre but also a lifestyle that differs from Afro House. In my opinion, I feel that the beauty of amapiano is better appreciated and understood when you are in the townships of South Africa seeing the full scope of the sound: fashion, dances, and live performances. 

What do you think the future holds for Afro House? 

Afro House will only keep getting better and stronger. I want a future which involves further investment into Afro House producers, singers, labels, event brands and DJs. I think we will see more upcoming talent getting their deserving recognition through documenting the developments and achievements of the journey in publications. I wish to see Afro House music featuring on TV commercials, activating brand partnerships, and equalising DJ lineups with more recognition of female representatives within the genre. The future is bright for the genre as the pioneers are taking on more entrepreneurial roles that are further uplifting and shining light on African talents. The world is waking up to Afro House, and those that are on board the journey have shown loyalties that contribute to the growth of the genre. 

Hanna Haïs

How do you define Afro House? 

It’s a fusion of African rhythms and African vocals with European techno sounds.

Should it come from somewhere in Africa? Or be made by people from the African continent, or with African roots? Or can anyone make Afro House?

This music genre is definitely coming from Africa, more specifically South Africa, so it was originally made from African people. But anyone can make Afro House. To make quality and meaningful Afro House, one has to be into African music and Black music in general.

Has the genre changed since it first broke outside of the African continent?

I don’t think so.

Are you worried the genre will be whitewashed?

No, because this music is made first and foremost by African producers for African people. The quality of the productions and the sheer talent coming from South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique or Kenya is absolutely amazing. Furthermore, there are African labels releasing Afro House or Afro tech. I released a single in January on Celsius Degree from Kenya and they did an amazing job. It’s not like 20 years ago when 99 percent of the labels were based in Europe or in the US and very hard to reach — nowadays it’s much easier for an African artist to release their music. 

Does the term box you in? We’ve heard of festivals relegating Afro House to side stages, for instance.

I think that Afro House is still at an early stage. I’m glad that festivals are starting to book Afro House DJs and artists, even on side stages. It’s giving us the opportunity to showcase our music to a growing audience.

Where do you feel amapiano belongs? 

I don’t play Amapiano, it’s the deeper/loungy side of Afro House, but it belongs to the Afro House genre in general.

What do you think the future holds for Afro House?

I think Afro House is the “fourth wave” — we had house, then techno, then EDM, now we’ll have Afro House.

Sef Kombo

How do you define Afro House? 

I think it’s a rhythm that tells a story within. It gives a deeper feeling, that warmth which the continent always gives in abundance, and it’s soulful — even on the more AfroTech side I can still hear and feel what the producer(s) are going through.

Should it come from somewhere in Africa? Or be made by people from the African continent, or with African roots? Or can anyone make Afro House?

I think anyone can make Afro House. People can absorb and recreate the music. However, I do feel once you make your way to the continent and not just specifically South Africa, your approach to how you build the music will change, understanding and taking in the lifestyle, culture and food can definitely give you a new approach to how you create and merge your world with your new discovery.

Has the genre changed since it first broke outside of the African continent?

The genre has evolved, definitely. I’d say there has been a European tech influence, whilst still trying to maintain the soul and feeling of the Motherland.

Are you worried the genre will be whitewashed?

I am not in the slightestAlthough I do get concerned when the lines get blurred on the digital stores when records that are way off the mark of being Afro House are placed in the genre. It can create the incorrect exposure.

Does the term box you in? We’ve heard of festivals relegating Afro House to side stages, for instance.

In some cases, it can and I think festivals need to be braver to bring to bigger stages. It is good music that when played well, is a brilliant addition to a place where diverse music is meant to be championed and celebrated!

Where do you feel amapiano belongs?

It’s all house music to me, albeit different to Afro House. It brings a different style and energy to the table that I really love and it belongs on the same stage as other music. Even though it’s in its infancy it can carry it on and is a vibe!

What do you think the future holds for Afro House? 

I think the future is so positive for the genre. The collaborations between fellow Africans in different countries is getting even stronger and I’m enjoying some link-ups between those in different continents sharing ideas and making magic. We need to continue together in unison to push the genre forward, which I feel is happening. I’d like more vocalists and poets to get more of a push, because they are the cornerstone of some of our favourite records today.

JAMIIE

How do you define Afro House? 

It is all this and so much more. Afro House can be soft and light, soulful and playful, strong and loud, deep and driving, percussive and (poly)-rhythmic. So many elements of music find their way into it. It is a form of expression and a messenger, especially when a track contains vocals and lyrics. I have the feeling, Afro House came in as a sort of reclamation of house, connecting it with the roots and soul of the African continent.

2. Should it come from somewhere in Africa? Or be made by people from the African continent, or with African roots? Or can anyone make Afro House?

Afro House can come from anywhere and from anyone, regardless of the color of the skin. Music is free and has no owner, but certainly creators! The original roots should always be respected, credited and acknowledged. This is what it takes.

The question is, what are the intentions behind making Afro House music? Do you really love and feel the sound? Are you following a trend? Is it strictly business and money-driven? Every non-POC who produces Afro House should be aware of the causal correlations. That a culture is appropriated that is not the own. That money is being made from black culture and its black community. It is important to question what can be given back in return to Africa or towards black artists and their communities. A great example is the Midi Minds collective from Kenya. In 2019 they recorded the traditional chants of the remote Samburu tribe, which the collective sent to musicians, DJs and producers around the world for them to turn into music. The result was a phenomenal LP and the entire revenue is being streamlined directly back to the Samburu community to eg. build a school. 

Recently I stumbled over an Afro House release by an artist who is not a POC. As often, the track contained various African vocals, as often, the cover pictured a random POC, but I was quite shocked because the release name contained the N-word! This is unacceptable! It is important that everyone is doing their homework, especially when moving around in a different culture. Awareness is key.

Has the genre changed since it first broke outside of the African continent? 

All things in life undergo a natural evolution. Otherwise, things would be stagnant. On the upside: Afro House is growing in terms of sound, expression and creativity from some highly talented producers, established artists and newcomers around the globe who produce amazing tracks, in some cases with limited resources. There are definitely a few labels and promoters who are doing an amazing job in supporting African artists and those of the African diaspora, providing the possibility to share their tunes with the world and to perform at certain events. The downside is the exploitation of the genre by some players of the industry without acknowledging its original roots and without giving the original creators the deserved space nor platforms.

Are you worried the genre will be whitewashed?

It is already whitewashed, and this has been a phenomenon throughout music history. Black musicians sometimes barely make money off their creative work, while white musicians picking up the same genre find recognition, money, and notoriety — in worst cases covering an original by a black creator. As a result, many of them stay penniless and unheard of, without any credit for the music they brought to the world.

Does the term box you in? We’ve heard of festivals relegating Afro House to side stages, for instance. 

Yes and no. But I just recently spoke to another DJ who mainly plays Afro House. And that is exactly what happened, a festival where the “Afro Stage” was a side stage. What was even worse is that the white headliners played some Afro House tracks and these of course worked perfectly well with the crowd. This is hurtful and makes you feel tokenized and sometimes unappreciated. Especially when you regard the origins of house music and techno, which emerged from the black and queer community. It was a sanctuary from the oppression they experienced in the outside world, as well as a place for collective healing, reviving, and expressing emotions through this music.

6. Where do you feel amapiano belongs? Is it part of Afro House or something else? 

Amapiano is a whole other world. I know it is crazy huge in South Africa, but I’m just starting to get my teeth into it. The genre is so versatile, I love it and I am positively surprised how many female artists are rocking this sound! I am a huge fan of DJ Uncle Waffles and singer Kamo Mphela, who just won a prize at the first SA Amapiano awards a couple of days ago. 

What do you think the future holds for Afro House?

Only time will tell. I am looking forward to seeing it grow and evolve. I wish that more African artists and those of the African diaspora will be given a chance to perform as headliners on decent stages and floors with prime time slots.

Sabine Blaizin

How do you define Afro House?

I define Afro House as an intentional reclamation of the African origins of House music. Afro House is polyrhythmic, and rooted in traditional and Afrofuturistic interpretations of African diasporic rhythms. 

Should it come from somewhere in Africa? Or be made by people from the African continent, or with African roots? Or can anyone make Afro House?

Afro House has been coined as a genre mainly from South Africa. As more DJs and producers emerge within the genre, we are finding that there are many from all over the continent and diaspora. Makers of this sound should ask themselves why they’ve gravitated towards this music — what is your intent, and how are you really contributing to the culture? If you are white, are you taking up space and opportunities away from the people of African descent who are the true purveyors of this sound? How are you giving back to Africa?

Has the genre changed since it first broke outside of the African continent? 

The genre has changed because with any trend in Black music, it becomes co-opted and appropriated by major labels/distributors/DJs/producers etc., without acknowledging the roots and originators of the sound. 

Are you worried the genre will be whitewashed?

It already has. It’s up to DJ and producers within the African diaspora to reclaim the sound, collaborate, and create viable platforms and sources of income for ourselves. We need to preserve and continue to elevate our sound. 

Does the term box you in? We’ve heard of festivals relegating Afro House to side stages, for instance. 

The term doesn’t box me in because I’m proud to acknowledge my African roots. I am proud to represent Haiti and to show the interconnections of our sound that is inherently African as Africa is our motherland. 

The term will evolve as the sound evolves because people of African descent and our music are not a monolith — that’s the beauty of Afro House. 

It has not been my experience in regards to festivals, but it’s unfortunate that Afro House would be considered “less than” in comparison to other genres within House. It needs to be respected as actually the roots of House music. House music comes from the emotionality and creativity of Black DJs and producers from the Americas and around the world.

Where do you feel amapiano belongs?

I’m not an expert and/or researched the sound thoroughly, but it’s similar to Afro House, and I’m sure Amapiano is shaping and shifting in its creation and rise. It is African music, specifically South African, and we should let the people define for themselves its categorization. I am curious and will explore more. The Amapiano sound is infectious and I’m excited about its growth. 

What do you think the future holds for Afro House? 

I hope the future holds a reclamation, respect, resiliency, and reparation that breaks the boundaries of just a term, genre and/or trend.

Native Soul

How do you define Afro House? 

Well for us, Afro House is a mixture of rhythm, feeling and more of a spiritual sound as we are able to connect with fans through the music.

Should it come from somewhere in Africa? Or be made by people from the African continent, or with African roots? Or can anyone make Afro House?

We believe that anyone from any continent can make an Afro House song, but the problem is that most of the time, it doesn’t sound as original as it would when made by artists from Africa.

Has the genre changed since it first broke outside of the African continent? 

Definitely. It has improved over the years, as more artists outside of Africa started doing the genre, which shows that the sound is now getting exposed to more people (fans) and also gives us a chance to explore new elements to put into the genre.

Are you worried the genre will be whitewashed?

No, we don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Does the term box you in? We’ve heard of festivals relegating Afro house to side stages, for instance. 

No, we are a diverse duo. We are comfortable playing different genres. Hence we like fusing different genres to make one unique sound.

Where do you feel amapiano belongs? Is it part of Afro house or something else? 

Amapiano is not a part of Afro House, but it has a little touch of Afro House in it and other few Africa genres that came before it.

What do you think the future holds for Afro House?  

Afro House still has a lot of room for improvement. Many people like to say it has reached its pinnacle, but we still see it as a genre that has the potential to be celebrated by the whole world in the coming years.

Anane Vega

How do you define Afro House? 

I define Afro House as deep-rooted music that evokes the spirit. It is a feeling that transcends my ancestral lineage through rhythms, chants and drums, and it connects me to them (my ancestors).

Should it come from somewhere in Africa? Or be made by people from the African continent, or with African roots? Or can anyone make Afro House?

Of course, Afro House should come from Africa/African people and their descents, but with the growth of its popularity it has now influenced so many to explore the sound and find their interpretation of it, it is part of a universal language.

Has the genre changed since it first broke outside of the African continent? 

It has changed to some extent but there are also producers holding onto its origins. Like everything in life, there is evolution. This happens when the masses become curious about what they’ve heard and wish to create it with their influences.

Are you worried the genre will be whitewashed?

I’m not worried at all. I don’t run after the status quo or entertain what the masses are doing, I do all that’s possible to hold onto the integrity of my roots, my spirit, and what I love about this music. For this reason, Nulu Music, after twelve years, in this business and in particular this genre, will continue to deliver for another twelve or more years.

Does the term box you in? We’ve heard of festivals relegating Afro House to side stages, for instance. 

Nope! I’m a versatile artist in this business doing what I love for twenty-plus years.

Where do you feel amapiano belongs? Is it part of Afro House or something else? 

Ampiano is something all on its own. Does it come from Africa? Yes. Is it House? No.

What do you think the future holds for Afro House? 

The future is here now and Afro House is here to stay!

Listen to Beatport’s ‘Defining: Afro House’ chart below.



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