Gqom is the popping “new” sound that’s taking over clubs, runways, and even courtyards all over the world. It’s topping the charts in Southern African countries and even competing with Nigerian pop music.
But what exactly is Gqom? Where did it come from and why is it so hypnotic? How is it different from traditional house music? Don’t worry we’ll break it all down for you.
This emergent genre originated from the townships of Durban, South Africa. The word Gqom means “drum” in Zulu. Non-Nguni speaking people may have a hard time pronouncing it because of the palatal click.
Gqom was created by young people in their home studios using Fruity Loops or Pro Tools software and computers. Anywhere you walk around Durban there is bound to be Gqom blasting, from the taxis that slither through the CBD to stores and restaurants.
This sound first gained popularity in the townships through websites such as kasimp3.co.za (kasi means township.) Musicians would upload their tracks there for the public to download for free.
What distinguishes Gqom from house music is it’s rawness or minimalism. Devoid of heavily produced elements, it relies on deep bass beats, synthesizers and repetitive lyrics.
The reigning Gqom Lord is DJ Maphorisa who is best known for co-producing Drake’s “One Dance“, Mafikizolo’s “Khona“, and the smash hit “Particula“. He has also worked with D’banj, Emtee and Patoranking amongst others.
In 2017 Maphorisa and other producers released a documentary titled Gqom Wave. He and a panel of fellow DJs and other musicians elaborated on the genre. They divulged that Gqom actually uses dark nuances in the musical arrangement which are reflective of township life. This is peculiar considering that Gqom gets people on the dance floor and is seen as upbeat.
The undisputed queen of Gqom is Babes Wodumo, whose song “Wololo” shot her into stardom. She took to Twitter recently to announce the release of her new song “Orkant” with superstar, Diplo. She also posted a snippet of the video.
Other prominent names in the movement are DJ LAG, DJ Tira, Distruction Boyz and Okmalumkoolkat. Leading vocalists in the sphere are Gobisiqolo hit maker Busiswa and Moonchild Sanelly.
African artists are no longer restricted to the continent. The hunger for distinctly African music is on the rise with the international market embracing our sounds far more than it did in the previous decades. Gqom is the answer to this demand. Along with Afrobeats, it is about to take over and make a big impact on world music.