There was a moment where it seemed like gqom might be gone. The genre and it’s producers were sitting in a precarious and peculiar position this time last year – criminally underappreciated in their native South Africa while simultaneously being consumed in tastemaker European scenes without context. You couldn’t help the feeling like you’d seen this movie before – and it normally doesn’t end well.
Since then, though, a lot has changed. At home, Babes Wodumo emerged from Durban with the song ‘Wololo‘ to reign as the Queen of Gqom – finally giving the genre, and it’s stalwarts like the Distruction Boyz, some much deserved commercial attention.
Away from home, a rare and genuine effort to promote not only the music but the faces and stories behind them is also changing the music’s outlook. The two highest-profile gqom releases, while being on British label Goon Club Allstars and the designed-for-purpose Italian label GQOM OH!, have featured the hometown heroes that pioneered the style. Now those two labels have combined to bring another seminal moment – the release of self-proclaimed ‘Gqomking’ DJ Lag’s debut EP on Goon Club and a European-through-Asia tour with GQOM OH!.
Lag is another bright star of the South African underground dance music scene who takes a left field approach to producing the already left-of-centre style of music. His entrancing DJ sets have seen his stock rise, and the timing of this release, during a multi-continental tour, is set to crystallize that forward-moving energy. The EP’s first single moves beyond his usual style into the territory of sgubhu – deep house’s retort to gqom’s singular rawness – showing how keen he is to not rest on the laurels of a particular sound.
The rest of the EP seems intent on one-upping itself with each passing song in terms of danceability, with songs beginning raw and sparse before lag builds them up with layer on layer of synth work. ‘Ice Drop’ in particular holds the potential energy of a rubber band pulled taut, ready to turn any dance floor kinetic, while ‘Umlilo’ sees Lag teasing out the more ethereal and haunting tone inherent in most gqom.
DJ Lag’s self titled EP is available in both digital and vinyl formats from the links below, and keep watching as details of the rest of his tour are released.