Sun, selectors and sound systems: Hennessy and Rough But Sweet Present Piano People brought the Amapiano spirit to Notting Hill Carnival

Carnival's first-ever Amapiano stage was a triumph...

05.09.22 Words by: Billy Ward

Last bank holiday weekend Europe’s biggest street festival returned to Notting Hill to close out one of the hottest summers on record. After being forced online and into a 3 year IRL hiatus due to coronavirus, it was open to debate whether or not the iconic Carnival would be able to re-establish the momentum it had built up over the years, especially following 2019’s record attendance where over 2 million punters converged on West London across the weekend.

Despite drawing in an estimated half of that number this time around, Notting Hill Carnival 2022 returned as strong as ever and marked the triumphant homecoming of one of London’s most-anticipated events.

The two-day festival kicked off on Sunday (August 28) with its designated family day – opening up the streets to a vibrant sea of colour, noise, food vendors and party-goers coming together to celebrate Caribbean culture and reflect on the events of the past few years. For many, the 2022 Carnival represented coming through the pandemic and provided people with an opportunity to reconnect with their families and community, showcasing the cultural melting pot of London in all its glory. 

Carnival’s proud Caribbean roots are what makes this street party one of the best on the planet, however, the festival also welcomes people from all backgrounds. This year saw Notting Hill’s first-ever Amapiano stage take to the streets for a day of sun, sound-systems and unabashed fun. Over lockdown, the high-tempo, yet soulful South African dance music genre has swept through the music industry, driven by a fast-growing ‘Ama-loving’ fanbase who’s constituents become more global by the day. 

Pitching up in the street outside Hazlewood Crescent’s Our Lady of the Holy Souls church, the Amapiano showcase was put on by Hennessy and Rough But Sweet, the award-winning London-based sound system who pride themselves on their continuous presence at Notting Hill Carnival for the past 32 years. In charge of the day’s programme was internationally-renowned Amapiano collective Piano People, who brought out some of South Africa’s biggest stars in the scene, along with a selection of UK-based talent championing the genre. 

Tasked with fuelling the dance-floor throughout the day, Hennessy provided an exclusive bar serving the Carnival-inspired cocktails, often seen waving in the air after a particularly popular track dropped, and delicious food from Jollof Mama.

Hennessy has a long-standing affiliation with music and dedicates a lot of time into helping emerging genres prosper. Those who happened to be walking along the Thames back in June might have witnessed AJ Tracey performing some of his tracks while floating down the river on a Hennessy-branded basketball court – one of the company’s many collaborations with grime artists over the years. Therefore it’s fitting that the Cognac brand is first in bringing Amapiano to Notting Hill Carnival along with the iconic sound system Rough But Sweet. 

One of the acts on the line-up who received the biggest crowd reception was Vigro Deep, the 20-year-old Pretoria-born DJing prodigy who has taken the Amapiano scene by storm and catapulted himself to international fame in the process. Orchestrating the packed-out street with his jazz-infused house sizzlers and percussive basslines, the youngster put to use his experience dominating the SA clubbing circuits and relished his moment in the Carnival spotlight. Evidently so did the hundreds of party-goers below. 

Other South African acts who took up residence on the Piano People stage included Afro-trap rapper Costa Titch and Durban-born selector DBN Gogo. In the 3 years she’s been DJing, DBN has become one of her country’s most sought after selectors – BBC 1xtra once labeled Gogo the female boss of Amapiano and in-light of her joyous day-time set it’s hard to argue with that statement.

The rest of the day saw performances from Larizzle, the London-born DJ who has performed alongside the likes of Damian Marley, Burna Boy and Nas to name a few. His blend of Amapiano with tribal house and UK funky provided one of the day’s most creative sets and put the Rough But Sweet sound system through its paces. 

Elsewhere, Reprezent radio resident Nicky Summers and NTS resident Charisse C each brought their own unique energy to the line-up, while South African-born, Scotland-raised selector Kilimanjaro rocked the crowd with his fast-paced set combining Afro-centric rhythms with the sound of London’s electronic scene.

Overall, the Piano People stage triumphed at bringing Amapiano to Notting Hill Carnival for the first time ever. The stage’s off-central location offered party-goers the option of some relief from the busiest street parades on the day and added to the feel-good vibe permeating the rest of the festival. 

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, recently described the carnival as “part of the very fabric of this city” and for the overwhelming majority of people who attended the 2022 edition, it was a hugely positive return to form.

Read next: Ten thoughts on festivals after going to We Out Here 2022

Submit your music Close