Over the last few years an innovative dance music scene has emerged from the townships of Durban and South Africa’s other major cities, garnering the interest of the music community worldwide. A combination of skeletal polyrhythmic swing, fractured hip hop percussion, and stripped back tribal house influences, South Africa’s clubs are alight to the sound of Gqom. Gqom, a Zulu word meaning “hit” or “drum” seems an apt descriptor for this incisive, percussive music.
As audacious as it is razor sharp, the gqom production aesthetic has a compellingly stripped back feel, invoking comparison to the raw instrumental dubplates that were produced during the burgeoning stages of the grime scene in London, circa 2003 to 2005 - think producers such as Jon E Cash, Ruff Sqwad and Dread D.
To find out about how this genre shaking, signature sound is being crafted, we spoke to renowned Gqom producer and Gqom Oh! signee, Emo-Kid SA, to get an insight into the music technology that’s driving the scene, and to find out about life as a Gqom producer.
For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what lead you to producing Gqom?
I go by the name Emo-Kid SA, I’m 22 years old and was born in Durban, South Africa. I’m currently working with a London (South Africa) based record label called Gqom Oh! Owned by Francesco Nan Kolè. I started doing music in 2013 when I had my first ever computer which I was supposed to be using it for my I.T. classes, but I ended up falling in love with creating music (Gqom). I was also into producing some little bit of hip-hop but Gqom music really had me going crazy - I couldn’t stop myself from creating it.
What is your current studio set up? Are most gqom producers working in a similar way?
Believe it or not but most if not all of my production was created in my bedroom with just me, FL Studio, my computer and some little speakers, nothing fancy at all. Most of us Gqom creators don’t have much studio equipment since most of us like myself, we come from disadvantaged homes and so we have no other option but to work with what we have.
How do you normally go about sourcing and designing sounds for your music?
Most of the sounds and percussion I use are the wave samples that I usually get from my fellow gqom producers. We always share sounds with each other if one has downloaded some new free sounds online. For designing my music I normally use FL Studio, assisted by some nice plugins. It is a perfect tool for me to use when creating Gqom. It’s user friendly and very nice for most Gqom producers out there.
When working on a track, what is your creative process?
I wouldn’t say I have a consistent creative process I use to produce every track, but it has to do with the mood you’re in at the time - since Gqom music is a very “up beat” type of music it’s always great to produce the next morning after a good party. Gqom music is all about good vibes. You can’t create Gqom if you’re not in a great mood.
It’s hard to find gqom tracks for sale or download online at the major retailers such as Beatport. How does do DJs and fans access your music?
Yes, it’s not easy to get it on Beatport or other music selling sites, but I have a Soundcloud page where you can get most of the music I have released there. Also on my Facebook page there’s a lot of my music which I have available for free download.
What is the standard technical set up for a gqom DJ? Do clubs in SA cater for vinyl DJs?
It’s very hard to find a vinyl set up these days it’s very unfamiliar here in SA. Most clubs just use CDJs but I would love to learn vinyl one day.
What is up next for you? Any releases in the pipeline?
I have been creating quite a lot of music recently which I hope to release on the next Gqom oh! compilation, which would be released some time next year. I also want to drop an EP of my own soon. Theres so much music here and I wish for it to reach your ears soon.
Follow Emo-Kid SA