The Rudeboyz of Gqom [@rudeboyzsa]
The gqom takeover is eminent — if its not here already. The dancing is a huge part of the appeal of gqom from an outside-looking-in vantage point. I’m from Botswana and I’m amazed by it. If you were to hop on Facebook and YouTube right now, you’ll find so many kids shaking, twisting and rolling their bodies and grooving to it. Its almost like a spiritual event or a ritual the way they interact with the music.
In continuation of my series on gqom, I spoke [more accurately, emailed] Durban trio Rudeboyz about gqom and their feelings and contribution to it. It would not be an over-reach to say Rudeboyz experience the same ritualistic contortions when they’re in studio creating the music. Read on.
What is RudeBoyz understanding of iGqom in terms of its defining characteristics, where and when it started?
Gqom is a dark, drum pounding, steel cladded sound that originated from Durban. It is a raw, bassy and brooding variation of South African house that takes its name — meaning something like “bang” or “hit” in Zulu — from the hollow drum sounds heard all over it. This sound was pioneered by the likes of Binladen, Njiva, Nakedboyz, Lungsta, Rudeboyz and others while fiddling with a cracked FL (Fruity Loops) Studio program.
This sound is so unique to Durban that no other city or province understood it, up until it developed a niche market outside of the country.
In what ways does your music embrace iGqom?
Our music is Gqom. From the very first pack/instrument we use, we have Gqom in our minds and hearts. Unfortunately, the Gqom genre was not easily accepted due to the various negative connotations attached to it so it didn’t make into the mainstream South African music industry. We are in the process of changing the way people see and think about it so that it can be appreciated and seen as any other South African music genre.
South African music, especially hip hop, is embracing its unique identity once again and adding homegrown elements to the sound. What are your thoughts on that?
It’s good to see that another genre is making it into an international level or calibre without imitating other countries. It’s always good to see South Africans standing their ground by not conforming to external influences. Big Ups to all those rappers who maintained that South African element in all that they did and still are doing. We do however, feel that they should take it easy on recycling music and lyrics.
Would you say the music feeds the lifestyle or is it the other way around for you guys?
When it comes to Gqom, it was very unfortunate that the genre is believed to have been fed by the ecstasy culture of Durban, and those who consumed this substance fed off Gqom. What we mean is that, Gqom emerged at the same time that the Durban ecstasy scene was elevating so many people believe that Gqom is what influenced kids to experiment with this drug. Some people believe that the Gqom genre emerged as a result of taking ecstasy and hitting the studio. We believe that the Gqom genre is purely driven by the love of dance and the need to differ from the norm. It is fueled by the unique Durban nightlife and the Loud Taxis that roam the streets during the day.
Interest in gqom is growing, do you think that more artists affiliating themselves with it is good for the genre?
Well, I think for an army to grow it does need more man-power as far as quantities are concerned. We think that merely getting more people [involved] will be helpful but it would be more good if the right people would be affiliated with Gqom. What we mean is that, if record labels, promoters and radio stations would accept this genre, just like foreign organizations, it would play a tremendously important role, not only in the Gqom genre but in the SA music industry as a whole.
Which Gqom artists are prominent or worth taking a look at, in your opinion?
Thukzin | Facebook|
Distruction Boyz | Facebook
DJ Stolen (AmaLegends), Xtralarge and House Junkies
You guys got a deal in the UK with Goon Club All Stars and that’s validation. How do you feel about SA artists getting recognized outside before they make it big locally?
We are honored to get a deal from outside South Africa, however we are worried about the fact that our own country has failed to give us the same opportunity that we got from outside. We believe that charity should begin at home. More importantly we are delighted that South Africans are now getting international recognition for our unique musical culture. Shout out to Spoek Mathambo and OkMalumKoolKat.
This same “unique musical culture” gifted Rudeboyz a career. Moving forward, there’s a feeling optimism with regard to the growth of South African music. I spoke to Okmalumkoolkat briefly after a workshop for the Botswana Electronic Music Festival in Gaborone and he mentioned that he had chopped it up with the boyz. Hopefully a collaboration with Rudeboyz is in the works to advance gqom.
Join in the celebration of 50 years of democracy in Botswana. www.bemf.co.bw
The problem that always crops up with any music that develops or springs out of a subculture, is the lack of acceptance or resistance from mainstream society. Hip hop, punk and grunge in the 80s and 90s etc experienced the same thing. However artists have to keep working and keep getting the music to the public until the public forces everyone, radio compilers especially, to take notice. That seems like the plan for Rudeboyz.
Most times musicians have their own path that they have set up and as a result, different timelines and trajectories. Rudeboyz may have a different plan from the next Gqom artist but the plan seems to be to keep the gqom movement as a whole going. The question is not how will Rudeboyz take Gqom out of Durban and export it so it catches on to the rest of South Africa and the world; that has, and still is, being achieved.
The pertinent question is, how will they be able to keep the music pure i.e. authentic and true to the (he)art without compromising themselves, and their music, by pandering to the public’s expectations. By “cleaning up the sound,” hopefully they won’t lose the roots that made Gqom what it is -and by extension- lose that same core market or fanbase it started with. That’s a story for another day.
Gqom Part 1: Gqom: Taking Over Playlists One Trip At A Time