If you intend to give the album your full attention, then Rekere is quite an undertaking. However, if you’re listening to it in the background, it provides enough energy and smoothness to be recommended. And, as a club listen, with those log drums thumping around the room, I can imagine Rekere would provide a fun experience…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
In this year 2023, one must have had to be living under a pretty massive rock to not know what Amapiano is. The South-African House offshoot has had the African music scene in an aggressive chokehold over the past few years, with its rattling shakers, percussion driven beats, rhythmic synths, mysterious ululations, and of course, the thumping log drums.
Kabza De Small is a name that should be almost synonymous with the mentions of the genre. As one of the pioneers or giants of Amapiano, Kabelo Petrus Motha has constantly been at the forefront of trends in the genre. His steady output of Amapiano LPs has been a driving force in the proliferation of the genre’s popularity, and it seems he has returned to proliferate some more with Rekere. Enlisting the help of Stakev (a prominent House producer who Kabza recently signed to his PianoHub label), Kabza sets out to prolong his legacy as one of the (Scorpion) Kings of Amapiano.
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At this stage in its popularity, one already knows what to expect from Amapiano. As such, the prospect of a 16-track LP boasting a runtime just shy of 2 hours, is quite a daunting one. Admittedly more suited to the atmosphere of nightclubs and dance raves, I expected that the genre wouldn’t lend itself particularly well to a seated listen. And the first two songs, “Edibles” and “Kwenzenjani,” almost proved my point, offering the expected Amapiano fare. They made for decent passive listens but did little to hold any unique interest. However, I soon had to put my first impressions aside.
A quick glance at Rekere’s tracklist would reveal that a healthy number of songs also have “Rekere” in their titles. Quick research showed that “Rekere” just happens to be an alternative name for a style of House music. With this in mind, it became clear that Kabza and Stakev intended to use this album to showcase a novel approach to the ubiquitous Amapiano sound, and once I dove into the “Rekere” tracks, I could fully appreciate this new direction.
The most outstanding sonic quality of these songs was their soulful nature, finding their footing on smooth Rhodes keys playing expressive soul-inspired chords. And then Kabza De Small and his cohort made sure to give each track a unique flavouring to spice up the soulful mélange “Motho Rekere” has a down tempo Rhodes progression, energised by interesting ululations, pipe organs and a groovy danceable drum break.
“Rekere 0.4” and “Rekere 0.5” introduce jazzy piano lines and solos to the mix, also taking advantage of organs to supplement simple yet lively drums. “Rekere 1” rounds up this group that I think are the best the album has to offer, coming in with a subtle and relaxing aura propped up by sharp synths, vibrant prominent shakers, and an energetic log drum pattern during the drop.
The next tier of songs exemplifies the weaknesses of Amapiano as an active listening genre. “Rekere” changes up the jazzy formula with unique percussions, funky afrobeat organs, and a bubbly bassline. “Rekere 0.2” contributes catchy synth melodies, an interesting log drum passage and a breakdown that is sparse yet engaging.
“Rekere 0.8” leans further into Stakev’s House origins with distinctly House-inspired hi-hats, saxophone samples, and deep vocal cuts. “Rekere 3” is a very moving track with softspoken emotive chords, twinkling jazz piano runs, and relaxing understated drums. So far, so good. The problem, though, is that the shortest of these songs clocks in at just under 7 minutes. While this is nothing new for Amapiano, you feel the length of these songs.
They start off wonderfully, soft and relaxing, interesting and varied. But over the course of their runtime, they grow stale and repetitive, hardly adding in any variation to the main patterns. And as evidence that the issue isn’t solely the runtime, “Rekere 0.4,” which is one of my favourite tracks on the whole album, runs for a staggering 8 minutes and 4 seconds.
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As the album continues along, it seems like the inventiveness of the artists dropped off progressively. “Rekere 4” is the only song out of the lot I think is actually bad. It starts of inconspicuously but then reveals a number of strong heavy percussive instruments that clash quite dissonantly with the rest of the sounds around them. Surprisingly enough, this is the shortest song on the album (at 5:50) and it features the other Scorpion King, DJ Maphorisa. I’m not quite sure if the dissonance was intended, but the execution let it down.
While no other songs fall this low, there are a number of them that present unique ideas, almost like questions, but then don’t go the distance in exploring or answering them. “Rekere 7” features a unique synth melody that pulls the ear in, as well as sugary Rhodes chords and flourishes. Disappointingly though, the drop ends up being very run-of-the-mill and does not expand on those fascinating sonic ideas. “Rekerefuthi” employs some left-field sound choices, boasting what sounds like a meowing cat as well as some other distinctive quirky sounds. And while it does catch the ear with those inclusions, it doesn’t add much sonic interest as the song progresses.
“Rekerekechipi” opens with a unique bassline and percussion combination, and builds subtly with intriguing synthesisers. However, here, too, the ball is dropped, and the song returns to the basics as it goes on. “Rekere Ya Dubai” veers towards House again, with sporadic pianos, loud vocal chops, and abrasive drum hits that break up the smooth melodic background quite interestingly. Sadly, that generated interest is let down as the song doesn’t progress anywhere too unique. “Ululation” rounds off the tracklist, returning to standard Amapiano fare and playing up the expected ululations in line with the track title.
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Looking at Rekere as a whole, it is still impressive what Kabza De Small and Stakev are able to pull off. Considering 2 hours of content in a very saturated genre, the fact that they are able to mostly inject new ideas, energies, and sonics into the album deserves some level of applause. Kabza De Small makes room for his signee’s House influences to play into his sound, spicing up the tracklist with unique sounds, syncopations, and arrangements.
My biggest complaint would be that some songs seem to drag on for ages, overstaying their welcome and boasting lengthy runtimes seemingly just for the sake of it. Some of the songs would have benefited greatly from trimming, allowing them to spring their musical surprises on the listener, and leave them with a strong impression, as opposed to performing the same trick over and over again, diminishing the impact.
If you intend to give the album your full attention, then Rekere is quite an undertaking. However, if you’re listening to it in the background, it provides enough energy and smoothness to be recommended. And, as a club listen, with those log drums thumping around the room, I can imagine Rekere would provide a fun experience.
Sonic Interest – 1.3
Tracklisting – 1.2
Sound Engineering – 1.6
Danceable Vibes – 1.3
Listening Experience – 1.3
Rating – 6.7/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.