Uncle Waffles
A Seat At Her Table

Look how she ate that!


If any rising global sensation commands the current moment, it’s Uncle Waffles. Not only is she a rising star in her own right, but she’s also waving the global flag for amapiano, one of the past few years’ most popular rising music genres.


The South Africa-based DJ and producer, along with artists such as “Water” singer Tyla, have been the prominent representatives for the rise of the genre in the United States and more. And now, she’s set to perform at the inaugural Blavity House Party Music Festival this month in Nashville alongside Lil Wayne, Monica, BLXST and more.


How she has curated her career so far has been intentional regarding bringing amapiano to a global audience.


“Who I am, how I dress, how I perform has really helped me reach this audience,” Uncle Waffles said while chatting with Blavity for our June cover story film at the Hotel Chelsea in New York City. “It’s really helped me get people to really want to invest more into amapiano. Because there’s a language barrier, so many barriers with amapiano. When people see you, and they’re attracted to you, they want to understand the sound, they want to learn the sound. I feel being me has helped me reach [this] audience.”


The rapid rise of Uncle Waffles has happened in a short time. Honing her skills heavily during the pandemic, she garnered much success with albums Red Dragon, Asylum and Solace, all released between 2022 and 2023. These projects were fronted by singles such as “Tanzania,” “Yahyuppiyah,” “Echoes” and “Peacock (Revisit),” with the former being certified 7x-Platinum in South Africa. Accolades during her incredible ascent also include becoming the first amapiano artist to perform at Coachella, her nomination for best international act at the BET Awards, a nomination for best African music act at the MOBO Awards and the woman of the year honor by GQ South Africa’s Men of the Year Awards. Beyoncé also featured “Tanzania” in a dance break during the Renaissance World Tour, and it is a moment that she says made her more accepting of grace.


“It was hard, but now I feel I’m more accepting of what’s happened to me,” she said. “I’m grateful. I live in so much grace. The grace didn’t find me by mistake. I don’t need to explain to anyone how it found me, because only me and God know what happened. Now I’m in a better place because [this] happened to me, it’s OK, and greater things need to happen.”

I live in so much grace. The grace didn’t find me by mistake. I don’t need to explain to anyone how it found me, because only me and God know what happened.

While it may seem like she’s just arrived, Uncle Waffles’ isn’t an overnight success. She attributes her background in studying business as crucial to who she is right now.


“I feel understanding business made me realize that at the very beginning of your brand, when I blew up, the best thing I had to do was invest in my brand,” she explained. “It’s about reinvesting your brand and keeping seen. The first two months of my blowup, we did 100 shows. I was at five, six shows every single day, to make sure that people don’t forget my face, that I’m getting enough content. It really helped me understand that, yes, here’s opportunity, but this opportunity can die. How do you make sure that in the next two years you’re not that girl that blew up one time and we forgot her? It really did help me figure out that, ‘OK, you know what? This is what I’m supposed to do.’ This is about investment. It’s not about making money right now, it’s about reinvesting, which is what we’re all doing right now in the amapiano space, is investing in going to bigger spaces to make sure that the brand is out there; your face is out there, and the music’s out there.”


However, due to such a quick rise to fame, the DJ and producer admits imposter syndrome impacts her as it does anyone else.


“Imposter syndrome was a big thing in the very beginning,” she shared. “I felt everything was happening to someone that I was watching. It didn’t feel like it was happening to me. All these people reaching out to me, congratulating me, all these people you’ve idolized suddenly knowing who you are…it feels like, ‘What, is this real?’ Initially I did struggle with it, and then I realized that it is happening to me, it’s OK that it’s happening to me. As much as you all want it to happen, when it actually happens, there’s a bit of, ‘Why me? Is there a catch to this? Am I going to wake up?'”


As evidenced by her sold-out headlining show in New York City late last year, which got support from Missy Elliott, and her upcoming set at the Blavity House Party Music Festival, more and more DJs and producers are becoming recognized as artists and performers in their own right.


“I love it,” she said. “It’s just giving more platforms to producers because most producers are DJs, so they now get to play their own music. Now they don’t need to have the feature go and represent them. And I feel DJs have always been important, but now people are realizing that DJs can be important, and they also can be a headliner. They can put on a great performance for you; just give them the platform.


Performance is also a significant element of the Uncle Waffles experience, and she’s known for hopping from behind the DJ booth and vibing out. And it’s a reason why she prioritizes this aspect of her shows.


“Because of the language barrier, when you’re trying to bring out a sound, people need something to understand first,”she said. “People always understand performance. I’ve leveled up the way I perform because I’m going to bigger stages, and I don’t want to get swallowed by the stages. So, now it’s about making sure that we are showing people that amapiano is dance, and we can also put on a full show. We are not the background people you put to add to your show. We’re the people who can be in the forefront to give a full performance. Because I feel amapiano dancing is a little more intricate, so the world needs to see it more. When we pick dancers, we always pick people who are open, people who are going to be willing to learn, because it’s a pocket that’s quite specific. The movements may seem easy on social media until you have to do it.”


As she serves as a global ambassador for amapiano, a part of that comes as many folks try to make sure the genre is distinguished as something different from Afrobeats. However, Uncle Waffles is OK with the fact that they’re conflated a lot.


“It’s definitely an Afro genre because it’s an African genre,” she said of amapiano. “But the difference is amapiano is taken from Soweto. It’s a genre of a mix of South African sounds, kwaito, house, to create something that’s completely new. And they added something called a log drum. The log drum is that sound that you always hear, that distinct sound. I think that always distinguishes it. That’s the main thing, otherwise, all genres are Afro genres, African genres, genres from all places in the continent. It [the confusion with Afrobeats] doesn’t upset me, because it’s still emerging. A lot of people know Afrobeats. They’re still getting to learn amapiano. We’re there to correct; every time they say ‘Afrobeats,’you say, ‘No, amapiano.'”


In music and popular culture, the culture of West African countries like Nigeria is more known in the United States and Western countries. Still, amapiano and other South African cultural elements are gaining more attention.


“I feel people know more of West Africa because they have more platforms and they are just a larger group of people, so obviously they are more popular,” Uncle Waffles said. “But I think there’s a lot of artists who are emerging in the other parts of Africa who are really showing that Africa as a continent is very versatile. There’s all types of people, all walks of life. I feel I am helping, by showing people that we exist differently. We all love each other, but we exist differently. The music, the language, how we speak, all those things are completely different. And also how we dance. As much as everything is similar, it’s not the same. I think the main thing we’re showing is that we all exist together. We love each other, but we are different. And that’s also completely OK.”

We are showing people that amapiano is dance, and we can also put on a full show. We are not the background people you put to add to your show…we’re the people who can be in the forefront.

Uncle Waffles’s status as one of a few visible women producers and DJs isn’t lost on her; she wants to pave the way for others.


She noted, “When you look up the list of female DJs who are renowned to the world, they’re [all white]. Most of them are people who already have platforms prior, and nobody in any African genre [of] music whatsoever, so no house, no nothing. I am aspiring to be the person who does it. I really want to show that there’s so much talent that’s not being seen. I also want to encourage people to show that — you know what? — you can do it.”


What’s next for amapiano? Uncle Waffles said the trajectory over the next few years will be “crazy.”


“There’s so many artists, so many amazing performers that are still breaking into the international space. I definitely see a huge growth.  I see a lot more international acts jumping on it. Because I think more collaboration allows the sound to grow, so I see more international acts jumping on it and merging well with it. People can jump on the sound, and the songs don’t do well, and then the songs started doing well, so the world can see us more. I definitely see a big jump withartists. You guys are going to see more performers, because right now you guys are seeing DJs. There’s a lot of performers that are really, really good that are making their way into the space.”


And what’s next for Uncle Waffles?


“I see a little Grammy along the way somewhere. I see a lot more headline shows. I see going to all these big festivals for DJs. There’s a lot of defining spaces for DJs. I see amapiano in Ibiza. That is what I see for myself in the next couple of years…maybe a documentary. I always want to create music that will give you the experience of my performance. I always want you to listen and remember, ‘Yo, when she performs this song, it’s going to be so good. I know I’m going to go see her, because I know it’s going to be so good.’ That’s the type of experience I always want to give to the people who listen to my music.”

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Read More!

Find out more details about the artists of amapiano and the 2024 Blavity House Party Music Festival

The Blavity House Party Music Festival will feature performances from Monica, Lil Wayne, Uncle Waffles, Leon Thomas, BLXST, Dru Hill, Ryan Leslie, Big Freedia and more.

Taking place on June 14 and June 15 at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, the festival will also have a Black-owned marketplace, intimate dinners, VIP lounges, brand experiences, after-parties and exclusive merch.

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