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Uncle Waffles is Flying The Flag for Amapiano

At just 22, Swazi Artist, Producer and DJ Uncle Waffles has become one of the faces of South Africa's rapidly rising Amapiano scene. We caught up during her debut Australian tour to hear about her viral come up, the spiritual power of Amapiano, and how she plans to push the limits of the genre.

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At just 22, Swazi artist, producer and DJ Uncle Waffles has become one of the faces of South Africa’s rapidly rising Amapiano music scene. Less than a year ago, clips of the young DJ shutting down events in South Africa with her packed-out Amapiano sets went viral, (in part thanks to her incredible dance moves); Uncle Waffles even caught the attention of Drake, who reposted Waffles on his Instagram and helped to solidify Uncle Waffles as one of the faces of the genre globally. Despite being a self-taught DJ who learned the foundations of her craft while in lockdown during the pandemic, Uncle Waffles soon began producing her own music, rooted in Amapiano, but with an aim to take the genre into new territory.

As her meteoric rise sends her on a whirlwind tour, bringing the South African sound of Amapiano to clubs around the world, we caught up with Uncle Waffles as she touched down in Australia for the first time, ahead of her shows in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney to hear about her viral come-up, the spiritual power of Amapiano, and how she plans to push the limits of the genre.

Uncle Waffles, w
elcome to Australia. Is this your first time in the country? How are you feeling about your shows kicking off tomorrow?
Thank you. Yes, it is the very first time. I’m super excited. I’m excited to experience Australian crowds.

It’s incredible how quickly amapiano has travelled across the globe. Did you ever think that you’d be out here playing that style of music in Australia?
No, not at all. So I’m very excited.

So for those who don’t know, you’re a DJ from Swaziland. You’re an incredible dancer with amazing energy, and you’re also a producer, and you’re only 22. When did you start DJing, and what actually made you want to start?
I started DJing during the pandemic. It was mainly just to learn, and then as you’re doing something continuously for like eight hours a day, sitting there alone, you discover a love for something you didn’t know you could love. That was what happened to me. So yeah, it’s only been two years since I started DJing.

That’s amazing. How did you feel when you woke up that morning and saw that your video had gone viral and Drake is reposting it and everything?
It really didn’t feel real. Because as it was happening, I was still getting a lot of traction from people congratulating me about the show, but I wasn’t seeing my video move. Because my team and I were like, ‘repost it’ it might be a couple 100k views, and it will be really good for you, but then when I woke up and saw everything, it felt very surreal. It still does.

How are you taking everything? Because you seem like a humble and grounded person. How are you navigating it?
Thank you. I just have a very supportive team and like supportive people in my life that just force me to stay grounded, honestly, because I don’t feel like anything has happened to me in my real life. Only when I step outside  I realized that, actually, a lot has changed. Yeah.

What’s been the craziest fan encounter that you’ve had?
Um, a good one or a bad one?

A good one.
People crying has been kind of crazy. And having people who I kind of think are amazing, and look up to saying that they are actually fans of me. Those have been the biggest ones.

I was actually wondering, who are some of your inspirations?
I do have older inspirations, like from the older generations. The likes of Lebo Mathosa. Those are like South African celebrities who were very big when I was growing up. Those are the people that I looked up to. Because they’re all great at performing, they were memorable. So those are the people that I kind of took inspiration from.

So in Australia, there is a community of people who are in the know when it comes to Amapiano and mess with it so much. I’m excited for you to perform here. But for those who don’t know yet—how would you describe the sound of the genre?
I would describe it as an infusion of house music with this generation’s sound. That’s the best way to put it because it’s house music. But there are a lot of log drums added to it, which makes it more relatable to people in certain other parts of the world. Like, you know, people who like Afrobeats, love the log drum that specifically, the sound is a fusion of what the past generation did and what the current generation is trying to put together. That’s the best way to put it, actually.

What about the feeling that it gives you when you’re playing it?  Because as soon as you hear it—there’s something very spiritual about Amapiano.
Yes, it resonates with your spirit; the log drums are especially what hits your heart. I think if you’re of African heritage especially, log drums have always been something that are very present. So once you hear these continuous drums and these melodies, it definitely awakens something in your spirit.

And you put out your own song this year, too; congratulations on Tanzania. It’s huge. How did the track come about?
Thank you. We had the track ready a month after I blew up. We were just sitting on it, trying to perfect it to make sure that the first single we release is something that’s going to do very well. And it’s gonna truly be the epitome of myself and what I want to put out because it’s supposed to be an experience. It’s supposed to be the music I love infused with my performance, which is why the beginning is so hard. I wanted it to be the feel of a performance through the song. So we went into the studio a lot of times, testing out different things, adding and removing a lot of things for months, and then we finally decided that, Ok, it’s cool. Now, let’s take it out and show people the musical side of me.

That’s amazing. Did you always want to get into production?
Yes, I did. But again, it was just to learn. You know, creative vulnerability is something I used to struggle with prior to this, so everything was always just to learn and understand, not to put it out there. But then I was like, okay, I think it’s good enough to put out this.

That’s so cool, and I think it’s like really inspiring to young Black women and for me as a DJ as well. You’re really like taking a bull by the horns. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists out there?
Thank you. Just to just stay themselves and to be completely unique because you may be in a room of 10,000 people, you know? They always say that some things are oversaturated. Oh, you want to be a DJ, you’re not gonna make it. Do you want to be this? This too many people already doing. Always know that there’s only one of you. And one of you is exactly what’s missing. So don’t ever, ever change who you are. Be uniquely yourself. It’s always gonna stand out.

So I heard whispers that you might have a project on the way. Could you tell us a little about what we can expect from it?
We have we may have a project or a  single on the way, but it’s definitely not gonna be this year. So Amapiano, to be honest, it’s kind of having sons. Let’s say it like that. So it’s coming up with different genres within the genre. So we’re trying to create our own genre within the sound. So you’re gonna expect something quite different. Yes, something very different.

Who are some of the amapiano artists that you’re really enjoying or music that you’re listening to right now?
There are a lot of young kids who have amazing music. I can’t really name a lot of them now, but there are some young kids who are actually creating the sub-genres of amapiano and doing really well in the streets of South Africa.

Lastly, how does it feel to know that you’re playing such a pivotal role and, I guess, helping this sound go global, to where it’s not fully mainstream yet, but it’s definitely on the way? 
I’m very grateful, and I just always hope that I’m representing the sound well, because the first contact people have with the sound should be an authentic contact. So I will always pray that I’m representing the sound well, and I’m very grateful to be one of the people who are doing it.

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