Gqom ([ᶢǃʱòm]) (igqomu ([iᶢǃʱòmu]), gqom tech, sghubu or 3-Step) is an electronic dance music genre and subgenre of house music that emerged in the early 2010s from Durban, South Africa,[11] pioneered by music producers Naked Boyz, Sbucardo, DJ Lag,[12][13][14] Rudeboyz,[12][15][16][17] Nasty Boyz, Griffit Vigo,[18][19] Distruction Boyz,[20] Menzi Shabane[21][22] and Citizen Boy.[23][24]

Unlike other South African electronic music, traditional gqom is typified by minimal, raw and repetitive sound with heavy bass beats but without the four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern.[11]

Music industry personnel who were pivotal in accelerating the genre's international acclaim in the genre's initial developmental phases included the likes of South African rapper Okmalumkoolkat, Italian record label Gqom Oh owner Nane Kolè, as well as other South Africans, including event curator and public relations liaison Cherish Lala Mankai, Afrotainment record label owner DJ Tira, Babes Wodumo, Mampintsha and Busiswa.[25][26][27][28]

Name and characteristics

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The word gqom derives from an onomatopoeic combination of click consonants in the Zulu language meaning a hitting drum. It is also expressed as GQOM (stylization), gqom tech, qgom, igqom, gqomu and 3-Step or variants thereof.[29] Presumably another name is sghubu as its direct translation from the Zulu language is drum, furthermore it is a local word used to describe house or the drum instrument, in general ,whilst like 3-Step, being a sub-genre of gqom itself, too.[30][31][32][33][34]

 
(Pictured) traditional Zulu, drummer.
 
Zulu musicians, 1900.

Gqom is known for its beats which have a minimal, raw and repetitive sound with heavy bass as well as incorporations of techno, kwaito, afro house, breakbeat and broken beat.[35] [36][37] It is mainly described as having a dark and hypnotic club sound. The style of beats does not primarily use the four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern which is often heard in other house music.[11] Typical lyrical themes include nightlife. It often uses one phrase or a few lines which are repeated numerous times in the song. Gqom was developed by a young generation of technologically skilled DJs producing in D.I.Y. fashion with software such as FL Studio and often self distributing their music on file sharing platforms.[24]

Gqom as well as afro tech producers and DJs often blend these two genres (gqom and afro-tech), together.[38][28] Illustrations would be that of Culoe De Song's 2017, "Rambo"[39] as well as 2018 released single, "Poki Returns"[40] and Dlala Thukzin's "Nika Nika" (magical remix) featuring Iso and CavaTheKwaal, from his 2020, Permanent Music, EP.[41][42] Sgubhu employs the typical elements found in gqom music production, however what sets it apart is the kick pattern. In sgubhu, the kick follows a consistent 4-beat pattern reminiscent of house music.[33] In 3-Step, a predominant 3-beat pattern or beats are commonly arranged in groups of three.[26] Therefore, gqom could exhibit variances in rhythm, for instance such as a 3-step, 4-step alternatively even a 2-step beat.[23]

History

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Gqom emerged in the early 2010s.[11] Influences in the 2010s, cite acts such as Naked Boyz, prominently known for producing the track "Ithoyizi" which appeared on Afrotainment signee DJ Cndo's compilation as well as music producers Blaq Soul and Culoe de Song's inclination towards tribal house which involved experimenting with beat formations. Additionally, in certain Durban nightclubs, early gqom and tribal house seamlessly alternated in DJ sets, while the music of Pretoria (Bacardi house) and Eastern Cape (isjokojoko) record producers like DJ Spoko, Machance, DJ Mujava, DJ Mthura and DJ Soso as well as sgxumseni (attributed to DJ Clock and DJ Gukwa) were prevalent during the era.[43][28][44][23]

 
(Pictured) A common sight in South Africa is the customized and enhanced subwoofer-equipped mini van taxi such as a Toyota Quantum (referred to locally as ibomba), frequently blasting gqom at high volumes with amplified bass speakers.

From the mid-2010s, the genre gained prominence abroad, especially in London.[45] Gqom also plays its part in increasing business profit for local taxis as people established a day to specifically celebrate gqom called "gqom explosion" that is mostly known as I-Nazoke. It is celebrated by people from the city of Durban, but eventually other cities and towns in KwaZulu-Natal started celebrating it, too.[46]

Genre development

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As the genre gained international traction,[26][47] this made way for increased international collaborations as well as popularization. In 2017, lead Empire (2015 TV series), actor Jussie Smollett was sighted dancing to and what appeared to be enjoying,[48] the song "Omunye" by Distruction Boyz featuring Benny Maverick[49] and Dlala Mshunqisi.[50] Smollett described the song as "my jam".[48]

The "gqom queen"[51][52] singer and choreographer, Babes Wodumo, received a nomination for the BET Awards, BET Award for Best International Act: Africa, category.[53]

In 2018, Babes Wodumo made an appearance on the Marvel Comics, Black Panther:Soundtrack album compilation by Kendrick Lamar showcasing a gqom vocal style delivery on the song "Redemption",[54] additionally Wodumo collaborated with American electronic dancehall-reggae group Major Lazer on "Orkant/Balance Pon It" and displayed gqom dance moves in the official music video.[55]

Duo, FAKA's (comprising Desire Marea and Fela Gucci) music from their "Amaqhawe" EP was enlisted by Donatella Versace for the Versace Spring 2019 Menswear Collection, fashion show.[56]

Both Distruction Boyz (comprising Que DJ and Goldmax) as well as Babes Wodumo[57] were nominated for the MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act, the ceremonies took place in London (2017) and Spain (2018).[20][58] In the same year, Distruction Boyz were nominated at the BET Awards for BET Award for Best International Act: Africa.[59] Furthermore, the duo traveled to Barcelona with American DJ and music producer Diplo (one half of Major Lazer) to perform alongside Black Coffee and Diplo at Sónar.[60]

In 2019, DJ Lag produced a song "My Power" for Beyoncé featuring various artists inclusive of songwriter and singer Busiswa and musician as well as dancer Moonchild Sanelly, the song was on the track list of The Lion King–inspired album, titled The Lion King: The Gift.[61][62] At the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, The Lion King: The Gift received a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.[63] DJ Lag performed at the African Giants party which celebrated all the 2020 Grammy nominees from Africa.[64] In October, during the rapper, poet, actress and songwriter Sho Madjozi, The Kelly Clarkson Show, performance WWE wrestler, John Cena made a surprise guest appearance performing the song, "John Cena" alongside her.[65]

In 2020, singer Alicia Keys was video-recorded by record producer Swizz Beatz dancing to "eLamont" by Babes Wodumo featuring Mampintsha (former Big Nuz, member).[66][27]

In 2023, Disney Plus released an afrofuturism, sci-fi animated series Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, which includes Surf Sangoma set in year 2050 in Durban directed by Spoek Mathambo (Nthato Mokgata) and Catherine Green.The animation film's soundtrack is gqom-inspired created by music producer Aero Manyelo.[67][68][69]

 
Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire "Surf Sangoma" 2023 (Disney+)

3-Step

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3-Step, is a subgenre of gqom primarily distinguised as having a "three-step (kick), rhythm or beat". It emerged circa mid-2010s to the early 2020s. "3-step music" was introduced and pioneered by traditional gqom pioneers such as Sbucardo, Citizen Boy, DJ Lag and Menzi Shabane.[23][26][34][70] Triple metre, also referred to as triple time or American triple metre, is a musical time signature distinguished by its primary division of three beats per bar. This is typically indicated by a 3 (for simple) or a 9 (for compound) in the upper figure of the time signature, with examples such as 3
4
, 3
8
and 9
8
being most prevalent. In 3-Step, beats are often organized in sets of three, which gives rise to a triple metre characteristic in the music or song.[71][23][26]

In 2017, DJ Biza released a song titled, "3 Step".[citation needed]

DJ Tira, Heavy-K, Makhadzi, Afro Brothers and Zee Nxumalo's 2024 single, "Inkululeko" (meant to be interpreted as "freedom") was inspired by June 16, 1976 the Soweto uprising which were student-lead protests during apartheid which accelerated the resistance of the regime both locally as well as internationally.[72][73]

Alternative gqom

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In 2017, electronic rapper Okmalumkoolkat's "Gqi" alongside Amadando was produced by trio Rudeboyz (comprising Menchess, Massive Q and Andile).[12][40]

In 2018, Rudeboyz had stipulated to IOL's former acting executive editor, Buhle Mbonambi that on occasion they fuse gqom with an array of other genres such as hip hop and pop.[12][74]

Sho Madjozi's Limpopo Champions League album was a mixture of gqom, hip hop and various other electro sounds. The album featured musical acts such as singer Makhadzi and rapper Kwesta.[75]

Record producer, DJ Maphorisa's BlaqBoyMusic EP, was an amalgamation of gqom and trap. The EP's opening song "Walk ye Phara" featured DJ Raybel, rapper and songwriter K.O., Moonchild Sanelly and ZuluMakhathini. BlaqBoyMusic included other various rappers, singers, record producers, and guest appearances by musicians such as Bontle Smith, A-Reece, Lerato Kganyago, Wichi 1080 and Lucasraps.[76]

DJ Shimza, Moonchild Sanelly and DJ Maphorisa released single, "Mahke".[77]

In 2019, DJ Tira's self-produced album, Ikhenani (meaning "Canaan") consisted of a blend of genres for instance gqom, maskandi, gospel, amapiano, trap and hip hop. The album featured several guest appearances including Chymamusique, Duncan, Skye Wanda, Dlala Mshunqisi, Kwesta, Hlengiwe Mhlaba and Tipcee.[78]

Trap and amapiano rapper Costa Titch's "Gqom Land" EP released in 2019, comprised three songs, whereas the rapper delivered his verses over gqom beats.[79]

"Bum Bum" by El Maestro featuring TP intergrated components of afrobeat, gqom, amapiano and ragga.[80]

In 2020, commercial gqom duo Worst Behaviour enlisted Okmalumkoolkat, DJ Tira, rapper Beast RSA, DJ Lag and Tipcee for the remix of their breakout single "Samba Ngolayini".[28]

In 2021, Dlala Thukzin released Phuze (remix) featuring Mpura, Zaba, Sir Trill and Rascoe Kaos fusing elements of gqom and amapiano into one, song.[81]

R&B, pop and amapiano singer Tyla, DJ Lag additionally Kooldrink collaborated for song, "Overdue". The song incorporated elements of gqom and popiano.[82]

In 2022, The Natal Piano Movement's gqom album, The Legendary Edition was a fusion of gqom, deep house and amapiano.[83]

Moonchild Sanelly's Phases album inclusive of a guest appearance by Durban rapper, Blxckie showcased a mix of kwaito, gqom and amapiano interwoven with constituents of hip hop, jazz, pop, R&B and trap.[84][85]

In 2023, Rudeboyz, Ms Cosmo, amapiano dancer and singer Kamo Mphela as well as rapper Blxckie collaborated on and released a single, titled, "Woza La".[86]

Dlala Thukzin and house and amapiano record producer and DJ Kabza De Small collaborated for the release of a single titled, "Magical Ideas" featured on Thukzin's , Permanent Music 3, EP.[87]

Record producer Funky Qla collaborated with Dlala Thukzin, Goldmax (one half of Distruction Boyz), Beast RSA and singer Zee Nxumalo for the release of song, "FOMO".[88]

United Kingdom

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Notably musician, Kode9 (Steve Goodman) an individual who played a foundational role in the emergence of the early dubstep scene as well as head of the electronic music label Hyperdub exhibited a heightened interest in gqom. Various British record labels such as Gqom Oh!, Hyperdub and Goon Club All Stars, released gqom records by Durban gqom pioneers and record producers such as Mafia Boyz, Dominowe, Cruel Boyz, Angrypits Fam, Julz Da Deejay, Formation Boyz,3D & Untifam, DJ Mabheko,Angelic Fam,Chaostee, Swag Fam, Mosthatedboyz, Untichicks, Formation Chix, TLC Fam, Unticipated Soundz, Emo Kid and Okzharp.[23][89][90] Additionally, gqom tracks can be found on releases like the EP Touch by KG & Scratcha DVA and & Baga Man by Scratchclart. Scratcha DVA envisioned UK Gqom as a unique offshoot of gqom, influenced by British club culture, particularly the UK funky sound. An illustration of UK gqom is KG & Scratchclart's EP The Classix.[91][92]

In 2020, electronic music duo Coldcut (comprising Matt Black and Jonathan More), the founders of Ninja Tune record label and credited as pioneers of pop sampling, collaborated with South African musicians to produce an album, titled Keleketla! (meaning "response") for the In Place of War charity, organization. The album featured a blend of various styles, incorporating gqom beats and afrobeat percussion by Tony Allen (a pioneer of afrobeat), constructed upon a jazz base.[93]

In 2021, Abeka Bugatti, the debut joint EP by Bryte and Mina, showcased five songs infused with elements of gqom, afrobeats, UK funky, and dancehall.[94]

In 2023, Scratcha had a back-to-back, mixset with gqom pioneer and Durban native Menzi Shabane.[91][92] DJ Lag colloborated with British grime record producer and MC, Novelist on a single, titled Bulldozer.[95] British-Ghanaian musical artist, Karen Nyame KG,'s Red EP marked the first release from her imprint label, Rhythm In The City (RITC), and was described as "... an extension of the label boss' production signature that embodies a multitude of styles, UK funky, alté R&B, afro alté, gqom, amapiano, highlife and afrohouse".[96]

Japan

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In Japan, a gqom scene emerged, spearheaded by DJ and producer KΣITO, who was initially involved in the Japanese footwork scene. KΣITO's interest in gqom grew in the mid-2010s. In 2016, KΣITO released Hatagaya an EP which incorporated gqom. Various other projects by KΣITO, such as Jakuzure Butoh, drew inspiration from gqom.

Additionally, the producer established the USI KUVO record label, which serves as a hub for the Japanese gqom scene as well as released gqom records by Durban gqom artists such as Loktion Boyz. Some Japanese producers such as Indus Bonze, blend gqom with gorge, an experimental Japanese music style.[97][98]

France

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In France, in 2016, the musical artist Teki Latex and various other record producers introduced a new French club music sound, dubbed "bérite club" blending elements from genres like gqom, afro trap, Baltimore house, ballroom house, kuduro and grime. The Gqommunion collective was initiated in 2017 by Sebastien Forrester and Amzo, the latter associated with the Gqom Oh!, record label. In 2019, Sebastien Forrester released the gqom-inspired EP Salvo, which employed coupé-décalé rhythms.[99][100]

Greece

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In 2020, Greek duo Bang La Decks and Dutch producer Wiwek collaborated on a single titled 'GQOM'. They paid tribute to gqom while expressing their admiration for Guinean vocalist Mory Kanté by incorporating Kanté 's vocal from his 1987, single "Yé ké yé ké" into the record's production.[citation needed]

Brazil

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Brazilian producers established a bridge between gqom and baile funk, as seen with examples such as JLZ's GQOM IDEIAS EP and State OFF's"I Need Some Baile-GQOM", song.[101][citation needed]

South Korea

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In 2018, boy band BTS released "Idol" from their Love Yourself: Answer album. The was inspired by and encompassed gqom rhythmic elements. Moreover, the band promoted an alternate, digital-only version of the song featuring Trinidadian-American rapper and singer, Nicki Minaj.[102] In 2022, gqom trio Phelimuncasi (consisting of Malathon as well as twin vocalists Makan Nana and Khera) enlisted, NET GALA to produce their song "Dlala Ngesinqa".[103]

Mexico

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In 2021, Mexican music producer OMAAR's, Drum Temple album was inspired by gqom among other genres such as UK funky. Single, "Drum Dance" was described as "a rapturous reinterpretation of gqom and techno, at once resembling an ancient ritual and an intense strength-training session" by Isabelia Herrera of Pitchfork.[104]

Nigeria

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Reggae-dancehall musician Patoranking's 2017, released single "Available" fused afrobeats and gqom, the song produced by South African musicians DJ Catzico and Vista was described as "Patoranking proves how powerful gqom can sound in a pop setting" by Mike Steyels of Pitchfork.[105] In 2018, Citizen Boy, collaborated with Nigerian singer Dapo Tuburna on the afrobeats and gqom single, "Alala" . The song was featured on the B-Side of Citizen Boy's EP titled, Gqom Fever.[106] Songwriter and singer Yemi Alade featured on "My Power" in, 2019.[61]

In the 2020s, a new musical phenomenon emerged in Nigeria known as Nigerian cruise, also referred to simply as "cruise" or "freebeat." This genre, coined by the WhatsApp generation, incorporates a blend of techno, gqom, amapiano, and other musical elements. A typical cruise song could include a fuse of afrobeats melodies, amapiano log drums, and samples featuring Nollywood actors, politicians, or snippets from social media and televangelists. In 2022, MOVES Recordings introduced its second compilation, Cruise, which showcased the Nigerian cruise sound. The compilation featured artists such as DJ Stainless, DJ Elede, DJ YK, DJ West, Fela 2, and DJ OP Dot. Notably, in 2020, "Zazu Beat" by DJ Yk Mule and Portable was released, while "ZaZoo Zehh," released in 2022 by Poco Lee, Portable, and rapper Olamide, made an entry into the Billboard Global 200.[107][108][109][110]

Uganda

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Ugandan, Nyege Nyege's record label Nyege Nyege Tapes, dropped gqom records featuring gqom pioneers , gqom record producers and vocalists such as Menzi Shabane, Phelimuncasi, Ugandan DJ Scoturn, DJ Ndakx and DJ Nhlekzin.[21][111][112]

United States

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In 2018, Nicki Minaj collaborated with BTS on "Idol". In 2019, American rapper and singer Tierra Whack and record producer as well as songwriter Nija Charles featured on Beyoncé's "My Power".[61][113] Beyoncé's, 2022 Renaissance studio album, incorporated gqom among other genres.[114]

Austria

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In 2024, Franchise released, "Satisfaction".[citation needed]

Indonesia

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In 2024, Bandung DJ and music producer REYY released a song titled, "Tokyo Gqom", a remix of Teriyaki Boyz' 2006 single,"Tokyo Drift (Fast & Furious)".[citation needed]

Zimbabwe

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In 2017, DJ Tira teamed up with rapper Awa for a single featured on the rapper's debut album, African Women Arise. The song was recorded in Germany.[115] In 2019, house musician DJ Juta and Bhizer, the record producer behind "Gobisiqolo" collaborated for a single titled "Ngiceli Space" which translates to "give us space to shine."[116]

Australia

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Rapper Teether and producer Kuya Neil, described their musical style as "future-focused rap" influenced by gqom along with other genres such as bass music and footwork. Teether and Kuya Neil's nine-track album titled, Stressor was released in 2023.[117]

Dance moves

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Gqom music is associated with a number of distinctive dance moves, including gwara gwara, vosho and bhenga.[118]

Gwara gwara

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Rihanna and backup dancers, performing the gwara gwara at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, 2018.

Gwara gwara is performed by rolling and swinging the arm and the elbow in terms of making a circle, and one of the leg moves in connection with the arm's rhythm. It appears to have some similarities to the stanky legg.[119] Gwara gwara[120] was made famous by South Africans DJ Bongz and musician Babes Wodumo.[121][55] The dance move was created by disc jockey and producer DJ Bongz, it was heavily imitated by South Africans and other African people mainly during 2016.[122][123] It also received widespread popularization globally as the choreography was adopted by notable musicians: Rihanna performed the dance move while performing "Wild Thoughts" at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in 2018. Childish Gambino performed the dance in the video of his song "This Is America".[124] BTS performed the dance in the choreography for their song "Idol".[102]

See also

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References

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