Behind the extraordinary rise of the house movement in South Africa, and the international acclaim that’s come with it, there’s an interesting dynamic at work; one which Cape Town producer and DJ Jumping Back Slash is all too aware of, as expressed in a recent interview with Mahala. He speaks of a “weird reticence and ignorance” from South Africans towards music that sounds “local”. While Western media looks towards producers and bands creating new and innovative takes on South African music, greater local recognition goes to producers looking to replicate international sounds. “It’s like you are rewarded for being an imitator”, he laments.
Much loved by Western media and audiences, Spoek Mathambo, Nozinja and John Wizards are three victims of this and is something that Jumping Back Slash has experienced himself. The producer and DJ, originally from Wigan and now based in Cape Town, has combined the house and kwaito sounds of his adopted home with classic house and techno influences from the West. The result is a beat-maker who, according to Fader, he is one of the best to blend South Africa’s many sounds. Despite all this, he is only recently starting to gain recognition in the country that has provided so much inspiration.
Elaborating further, he explains to The Fader in a recent interview, “there is music made here [in South Africa] that doesn’t exist and couldn’t exist anywhere else on the planet and it often gets overlooked.” One such genre is Gqom, first put onto us by London promoters Kartel, when they booked Jumping Back Slash for his UK debut. We tried to do some research, but found so little written about it we asked JBS himself to put together a guide, in words and music. Read his introduction below, while you listen to a mix he’s put together of his favourite Gqom sounds at the moment. For more music from Jumping Back Slash, check out his excellent EP from last year at the bottom of the page.
Catch Jumping Back Slash at Kartel tonight in Brixton. Tickets available here.
Gqom. Pronounced a bit like the French ‘gomme’ but the q is a post-alveolar click. A post-alveolar click is made by your tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Like the sound people make when they are imitating horses galloping. Got it? Good. Let’s move on.
Gqom comes out of Durban. It started out being called Broken Beat and in a way was a reaction to SA house, stripping away everything until it was just a beat. Gqom is not 4 on the 4. The kick is broken and syncopated, any musical content is distilled down, usually to one note and any vocals are reduced down to shouts, yelps and exclamations. It’s repetitive, hypnotic, dark, tribal music and when I first heard it I went mental. MENTAL. Gqom was the biggest influence on my music since arriving in SA back in 2007.
It’s made by kids, most of them unknown – I could do entire sets with tunes that have a phone number or BBM pin as the song name and artist! Most of the tracks are low-bitrate mp3s that are overly compressed and slightly distorted at times, but all of this adds to the charm. In a way it’s comparable to UK Grime where kids have got their hands on computers, cracked versions of Fruity Loops and Reason and gone to work. Mostly, the crews end in Boys, Boyz or Boiz, for example: Rudeboyz, Illumination Boiz, AudioBoyz, Naked Boyz, 3 Way Boys, DJ Lag, DJ Julz, Menchess, Citizen Boy.
In so many ways, it’s one of the truest and purest youth music movements to come from the country as it does not take influence from anything outside SA. It takes the existing vibes of kwaito and house in all its forms in SA (Durban, Bacardi etc.) and moves it forward. And yet, it exist in a bit of a vacuum even within SA. It’s not very well known and that’s a shame because Gqom is the real fucking deal.
The best place to find Gqom is kasimp3.co.za where kids upload their tunes for free download. They get paid from advertising on site, it’s a wicked site that is supporting this new generation of boys having a bash. In the UK people like Okzharp are flying the flag at gigs and on mixes and Kode 9 even stuck a couple of DJ Lag tunes in a recent mix for RA. So go check out Okzharp on the twitters for your educations.
Now thula and bheng to gqom. [that’s “shut up and rave” for those not in the know]