In the heart of the pulsating Amapiano movement that has enthralled global audiences with its rhythmic beats and captivating melodies, there is a growing gender disparity as female artists continue to be vastly underrepresented in the industry. At Spotify, their continued focus is on creating a level playing field for female artists. That’s why for South Africa‘s Women’s month, we are shifting the spotlight and delving into the remarkable journey of these unsung heroines who are shaping the genre, locally and on the world stage.

Since 2019, Amapiano has emerged as one of Africa‘s hottest cultural exports, with streams outside of Sub-Saharan Africa growing by more than 560% on Spotify in just two years. In 2022, Amapiano had more than 1.9 billion streams on Spotify alone.

Unfortunately, female artists are still underrepresented in the industry. Spotify streaming data shows that male artists account for nearly 85% of all Amapiano streams, with female artists having only 15% of the streams. 

However, in the shadows of underrepresentation and unequal streams, the resilience of these female artists shines through, revealing a story of determination, and the unwavering power of music, resonating with listeners far and wide. 

DBN Gogo, one of South Africa‘s most streamed female Amapiano artists was featured in Spotify‘s “Music that Moves” documentary, a series focusing on locally grown music that crosses borders and shapes culture in unexpected places. In March 2021, she was announced as the month’s EQUAL ambassador, which included a billboard appearance in New York’s Time Square

The EQUAL Music Program, which launched on International Women’s Day in 2021, promotes a more equitable playing field for women in the music industry. Spotify introduced the global music program as part of its dedication to advancing gender equality in music. 

Also featured in the Music that Moves documentary is Kamo Mphela, an Amapiano artist who came on the scene first as a dancer, before transitioning to an artist. She is the second most streamed Amapiano female artist on Spotify. She knows first hand the inequality in the industry, and in the documentary, she credits technology for democratising the music space saying “now technology has made it possible for you to be a boss girl, without the male cosign. Whatever sounds good, people go with it.”

Still in the same genre, Uncle Waffles made history in April 2023, when she became the first Amapiano artist to perform at Coachella. Her trailblazing year continued, being the first Amapiano artist to be featured on Spotify’s New Music Friday billboard on New York Times Square and Toronto for the release of her SOLACE EP earlier this month. Other female Amapiano artists who are blazing their own paths, and topping the most streamed Amapiano lists are Ami FakuLady Amar and Busiswa.

In South Africa, the birthplace of Amapiano, Johannesburg leads as the top city streaming female Amapiano artists, followed by Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town then Port Elizabeth. These women’s musical influence has not only been confined to South Africa though, with the UK, USA, Nigeria, Kenya, Germany and Netherlands counting as some of the countries streaming their music. 

Playlists featuring female Amapiano artists tracks are over 1.5million on Spotify, and Gen Z’s aged between 18-24 make up the most listeners. The younger generation are definitely picking up what the female Amapiano artists are putting down.  

Fridays and Saturdays are the most popular days when people stream female Amapiano artists, specifically between 3-5pm as they likely wind down the day. 

“We are well aware of the inequality that exists in the music industry, that’s why we have programmes like EQUAL to help even the playing field. There is still a long way to go, but watching female Amapiano artists shatter these ceilings shows us that indeed progress and change is possible,”.  

says Phiona Okumu, Spotify’s Head of Music in Sub Saharan Africa

As we celebrate the rise of these female powerhouses, it’s vital to recognise that their journey is a reflection of a larger societal shift. The statistics that once revealed disparities now serve as a call to action, propelling us toward a future where talent is the sole currency, irrespective of gender.