Gqom: The New Sound of Durbs!

Earlier this week we wrote about the umakhweyana, a traditional Zulu musical instrument, that’s struggling to survive as fewer young people learn the skill of playing the bow. On the opposite end of the spectrum is gqom, a style of house music that originates in the townships of Durban, and which has gained such momentum that it’s made its way across the seas to the UK, where London DJs are playing the rhythmic beats of Durban musicians in their clubs.

The name comes from the clicks used in isiZulu, and are meant to reference the sound of a Zulu drum. While kwaito is often criticised for being a rip-off of American hip-hop, gqom is considered by many to be a more authentic form of expression, drawing influences from the darker side of electronic music, hip hop, kwaito, UK funk, as well as deep tribal African vibrations. As international DJ and musician, Nan Kolè, puts it: “You can feel the troubled history of South Africa. It’s riot music”. Gqom comes with its own unique dance style, bhenga, described as Durban’s answer to Chicago footwork, complete with wavy arms, toe taps and wobbly knees!

Click here to watch a documentary, Woza Taxi, by Italian filmmaker Tommaso Cassinis, that’s centered around some of the Gqom scene’s leading characters

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