sweet as the scratch

12 gqom bhengz from durban

It's become clear to me of late that what I've been calling 'township tech' is less of a genre than a blanket term to describe the many strands of electronic music coming out of Joburg, Durban, Pretoria, Cape Town, and SA at large. These strands both update genres like kwaito, South African electronica, drum & bass, and house music, and splinter off into new and reworked sub/micro-genres such as deep house, blip blop, Shangaan electro, glitch hop, bacardi house, kwaito house, and, the focus of this post: gqom.

Gqom blew up in Durban in early 2014, shortly after Mokgethwa Mapaya founded KasiMP3, a web platform that allows musicians to release tracks for free while still earning commission for total downloads. Since the site's launch, over one hundred thousand new tracks have been uploaded, and Durban's electronic music scene has gone from relatively silent to one of the loudest in all of Mzansi.

'Loud' is the perfect word for it too, because gqom is literally implanting itself into Durban's public infrastructure. Tracks move rapidly from single room flats to shared taxi routes to online forums to inner-city clubs, house parties and shebeens. Along the way, they transform bedrooms into makeshift studios, street corners into dance parties, usb drives into communal property, and after-hour hang outs into full on raves.

As for gqom's sound, it is a dark, repetitive, minimalist, and rhythmic wave of broken beats. Tracks range between five and nine minutes and rarely diverge from two or three ongoing loops. Since the majority of artists mix digitally--probably on virtual dj or a 'cracked' version of fruity loops--most tracks maintain a very computerized feel despite their emphasis on the more industrial sounds of the drum machine. If vocals are featured at all, they are stripped down to a series of noisy words, yelps, whispers, and shouts.

I straight up lost my shit when I found this stuff. It's got that strange mix of demonic, abrassive, and dancy that I go nuts for. There is so much of it too! Check out these 12 tracks and then follow up at http://kasimp3.co.za/:

0:00 "Death Effect Gqom" - DJ Julz
6:50 "Ghost on the Loos" - DJ Lag
13:26 "Lost Alien" - NakedBoyz
19:37 "Black Sun" - RudeBoyz
25:09 "Aibo hey (dub mix)" - Subcardo da DJ
31:29 "God of War" - UnitedBoyz
38:44 "Bass Push (skoteni)" - DJ Julz
44:41 "It's a gqom thing" - AudioBoyz
50:57 "Tribe Bheng (original mix)" - Blu Ice
56:38 "Terminator [prod. DJ Gukwa]" - DJ CNDO
1:01:41 "28 special" - DJ Hlesko & CruelBoyz
1:09:08 "Khumbula Ukubhenga" - Menchess
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