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photography by Chris Saunders

Meet Distruction Boyz: The savvy young producers taking Gqom to a new audience

By 2012 the gqom style of electronic music had already made a huge impact on youth audiences in Durban’s townships. The new sound rumbled across dimly lit dance floors, reverberated within customised taxis and murmured through beat-up handsets. Inspired by the hysteria/excitement surrounding the new sound, three childhood friends, Manique Soul, Que and Goldmax (real names Lindelwa Mbhele, Thobane Mgobozi, and Zipho Mthembu)  began DJing and producing gqom music together. At the time they were all still Grade 10 high school students.

Like the many other producers in their area, Manique Soul, Que and Goldmax are all self-taught, having learnt their craft purely through trial and error. It was via this process of experiential learning that the group developed both their mission and their identity.  ‘Pazamisa’ is a Zulu word meaning to disrupt and from this the Disturction Boyz name was coined.

que

Although gqom is what inspired Distruction Boyz to start making music it is sgubhu, a ‘melodic’ sub genre of gqom that has gained them recognition in the music industry. Their track 2OCLOCK is a good example of how dark strings, broken kick-drums and repetitive vocal samples, all traditionally gqom characteristics, can be fused with melodic house synths to create sgubhu. Apart from being more melodic than gqom, sgubhu is a more commercially viable sound. The perception amongst dj’s and producers on the scene is that gqom is inaccessible for a mass audience and that its place is in the underground. It’s a fair assessment considering that gqom has mostly been ignored by record labels and radio stations in South Africa, despite the genres widespread popularity in KwaZulu Natal.

Since starting to produce sgubhu, Distruction Boyz have seen their audience grow and their star rise. They have worked with industry heavyweights like Dj Tira, Mampintsha and Dj Sox and are now closely affiliated with the record label Afrotainment. Both Que and Goldmax believe that they wouldn’t have met Tira if they were only making gqom. Although their focus is now on sgubhu, Distruction Boyz are still producing gqom but are no longer releasing it with commercial intentions.  Que sees it as a exclusive sound, something ‘just for us and our friends when they come over to visit”.

goldmax

The young producers now emerging out of gqom’s first wave are more industry savvy than their predecessors. One of the reasons Manique Soul, Que and Goldmax joined forces is because they believed that being a part of a group would fast track both their artistic progression and their trajectory in the industry. New ideas and approaches are key to ensuring that Durban’s new sounds reach a wider audience. Distruction Boyz, along with peers like Dark Dawgs and Da Golddust, are candid  about their intentions. Not only do they want to make gqom accessible but they also see their music as a business. A successful career in the music industry is that much more attainable  thanks to the foundation laid down by gqom pioneers like Rudeboyz, Dj Lusiman, Dj Target No Ndile, Griffit, Sbucardo and Dj Lag.

Despite Gqom not getting the recognition it deserves, the genre’s contribution and influence on Durban’s and South Africa’s music scene is undeniable. It is a fertile sound which is inspiring new artists and spawning popular sub genres like Sgubhu, Gqom Trap and Core Tribe.

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