Words by: Matthew Griffiths
Aymos adds fuel to the Amapiano fire that’s taking the globe by storm with the release of his Yimi Lo project.
“Amapiano”, Zulu for “the pianos” is a grass-roots genre that has recently had an incredible surge in popularity. My first encounter with Amapiano was heard via an Instagram Reel featuring a remix of Kygo & Selena Gomez’s ‘It Aint Me’ produced by DJ Abux and Soulking. The good thing about Reels (but I really mean TikTok) is that I was able to immediately browse through the tons of other videos using the same snippet of the song, which led me to understand how huge this remix had gotten. This led to a natural curiosity about Amapiano, which thankfully has lent itself to this 8-track review of South African singer-songwriter Aymos’ latest project, Yimi Lo following on with an artist commentary on all 14 of the tracks from the man himself. At the end of this review, he’s provided us with 10 Amapiano tracks he recommends for anyone new to the genre.
The album opens with ‘Jemeni’ – a 7 minute track laden with gentle strings, heartfelt vocals and emotionally raw adlibs. The percussion is laid back in terms of tempo, but with a pace and rhythm that keeps you excited for more. There’s a lot of space in this track for its differing elements – whether it’s the harder hitting bass lead or the more subtle strings, or the bare drums in the intro and outro. ‘Jemeni’ also features vocals from Focalistic, a South African rapper who has collaborated with the likes of Davido and Semi Tee. His relaxed flow and rough tone match well against the light synths and moderate tempo of the track.
Track 3 is ‘Lyf Styl’, in which Aymos delivers some beautiful filtered vocals in its subdued intro. Aymos’ voice eventually takes front and centre stage in the track, where it is complimented by intermittent gentle chords. The energy then amps up when the bass comes in, on which Aymos sings a repetitive hook about, well…a lifestyle. In the breakdown, his vocals are strong, beautiful and convincing – even though I can’t understand them. Its a shame the hook didn’t give me the same feeling.
Fourth on the tracklist is the amusingly named, braggadocious ‘Amapaperbag’, a collaborative effort between Aymos, Josiah De Disciple, MusiQALsthe and Theology HD. The synth melody of the intro is big and cold, and a little frightening, but in a good way that makes me feel like something huge is coming up. I like the sound selection on this track, not just because of the synth but there’s a cool orchestral stab and an interesting vocal chop which is in a similar sonic vein.
‘Risasekile’ opens with some smooth shakers, drums and guitar. It has a sort of romantic feel to it, and Aymos’ voice does not lack the passion to go with this vibe. Gentle chords and bass dip in and out of the production, but do not overwhelm or change the mood too much.
Title track ‘Yimi Lo’ is different from the other tracks in that it does not spend much time on an intro. It’s also a short song overall, and the instruments heard feel more tactile and more organic than the other tracks which are more synthesiser-heavy. It’s a charming little break from the norm in the middle of the project
The vocal melodies and production on ‘Muhle’ are soothing, which is confidently offset by its pulsating bass once it drops. This album so far has excellently been able to blend thumping, repeating party sounds in a way which somehow fits alongside chill strings and soft chord sequences.
One of my frustrations with house and EDM tracks in general is that they can take a while to get going, although once they do, they are rewarding. Once ‘iParty Yami’, gets going, the anthemic vocals in the hook are remarkably catchy. A collaborative track between Aymos & Kabza De Small, some of the stripped back parts of the track which only feature vocals with minimal instrumental are both lush and euphoric while creating excitement for the next part.
The penultimate track, ‘Matla’ with Zakes Bantwini is an extremely danceable track with bouncy rhythms and repetitive orchestral stabs sprinkled in the background. The vocals in the hook are gentle and subdued, while the instrumentation provides the excitement and danceability.