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Major Lazer releases first album in three years

Award-winning group explores Amapiano music

Published:Sunday | March 26, 2023 | 12:59 AMStephanie Lyew - Sunday Gleaner Writer
From left: Ape Drums, Diplo, Bandile Mbere, Walshy Fire and Banele Mbere have been celebrating the success of their Amapiano productions over several months.
Major League DJz is the brand of twin brothers Bandile and Banele Mbere.

The genres and sub-genres out of South Africa are becoming more and more contagious, as key sounds of Afrobeat and Afrobeats, and Amapiano, the dance music genre that has exploded out of South Africa’s townships and on to the world stage over the past three years and counting, continue to be fused with the traditional or indigenous music of other countries.

One group which has caught the Amapiano fever is Major Lazer, which recently released their first album in three years – the last album was Music is the Weapon, released in October 2020. The latest, titled Piano Republik, is a collaborative project with South African brothers Bandile and Banele Mbere, who have been dubbed global ambassadors for the genre.

Walshy Fire, one part of the award-winning electronic dance music trio explained that the album is unlike any other Major Lazer project.

“Amapiano music has been a big influence on us in recent times; it is what we been listening to the most, and partying to the most because we just love how it sounds,” Walshy Fire told The Sunday Gleaner.

The combination between the ideas of US-based Major Lazer, which is anchored by popular producers Diplo and Ape Drums, and Major League, he added, “has given the sound a whole new perspective … it’s a whole new world of music happening. It was only a matter of time before the pendulum swung back to healthy and happy feeling music and that’s what it is”.

For a while, reggae and dancehall creators have been debating the impact, the rise in popularity of Afrobeats on the global stages would have on the consumption of Jamaican music and the level of competitiveness that existed between the genres. However, Walshy Fire, who comes from a Chinese-Jamaican home, does not appear to think it is a threat. Instead, he stressed the importance of collaboration and delved into the origins of various genres, noting that house music, is of African culture.

“I personally think that the only way to win in music, right now, is to really get into that mindset of collaborating. It’s something we’ve always done a great job at,” he said. “House music is African music, so Amapiano and Afro-house, they take what we all know and feel good to listen to and renew it by adding new sounds, piano melodies and new chords and patterns. I think the reason the genres and in particular Amapiano, got so popular is because the music is so amazing (so) whatever else I say after that, has to be prove it is great music and it is embedded in every person’s souls to listen to music like this.”

The result of their collaboration is a thrilling and unprecedented international showcase for Amapiano.

Piano Republik was released last Friday. Both Major Lazer and the Major League DJz are euphoric, having been celebrating the success of songs like Koo Koo Fun, which was the first song off the album to be released. The song which features Nigerian singer and actress Tiwa Savage, who has been called the Queen of Afrobeats and top South African DJ and artiste Maphorisa, was made available to the public in September 2022. At the time, the two production groups were more than halfway through to completing the album.

Expressing his gratitude for the support, Walshy Fire said, “We only owe the people out there partying and listening, and the disc jockeys playing the music for the song’s success.”

Other sensational acts featured on the album are American hip-hop and pop hitmaker Ty Dolla $ign and Nigerian singer-songwriter Joeboy. The vocals of late South African music icon and social activist Brenda Fassie is featured on the track Mamgobhozi. The track has a special meaning for the collaborators, as the opportunity to feature her vocals on a global release of this magnitude has great significance for South African music, where she used the musical platform to tell stories of people during the apartheid system.

“Of course we’re always going to have some house music, electronic dance and dancehall in what we are doing, but part of our mission is to work with people no matter where in the world they are from and we would definitely love for persons who have never heard or experienced Amapiano to be reached by this project,” Walshy Fire shared.