Though it’s described as a subgenre of House, adolescent producers in Durban, South Africa are thoughtfully breaking all the rules to create something entirely their own. Gqom has emerged with a stripped-back, darkly hypnotic, atmospheric and minimalist sound that inspires dance styles and trends, driven by a local youth subculture. Recently, producers around the world are taking notice and Gqom is gaining global attention and club time.
The genre is characterized by a faster tempo, skeletal polyrhythmic swing, broken beats, intermittent vocals that leave space for call and response, synths, layers of sounds, and plenty of reverb. Gqom, a Zulu word for making repetitive rhythmic thuds, is an apt descriptor for this incisive, percussive music. Nearly 10 years on, Gqom is already beginning an evolution into the nascent dance genre Sgubhu, which applies most of the key elements of Gqom set to a 4×4 beat.
We spoke with renowned producer Emo Kid to find out about his life as a Gqom and Sgubhu 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, from Durban, South Africa and I’m 22 years old. I’m currently working with a London-based South African 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. I was into producing 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?
Believe it or not, most of my production is created in my bedroom with just me, FL Studio, my computer and some little speakers – nothing fancy at all! Gqom creators don’t have much studio equipment since most of us come from disadvantaged homes. We have 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 wave samples that I 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 for 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 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 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 and you can get most of the music I have released there. Also on my Facebook page there’s a lot of my music 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’s 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. There’s so much music here and I wish for it to reach your ears soon.
If Gqom music makes you wanna get sweaty, keep your eyes peeled! We’ll be adding our Gqom Patch Pack to the store soon ?
You can listen to Emo Kid’s most recent EP on Soundcloud.
For more Gqom music, NTS Radio has some great sets from Gqom Oh!
Gqom Oh! graphics created by HB Production in Rome, Italy.