GQOM IS MOTHER!: The Birth of Gqom’s Sub-Genres in the Past Decade - Bubblegum Club

GQOM IS MOTHER!: The Birth of Gqom’s Sub-Genres in the Past Decade

Gqom is an onomatopoeic sound that a drum makes, which becomes easier to reference when creating a genre that is led by drumlines. Zulu native speakers usually use this word to describe a structure that is hollow that has been banged to create an internal combustion sound.

An inside look at Gqom’s own origins:
Gqom was birthed by Durban Kwaito (another subgenre that took influence from different local sounds in the first decade of the 2000s) that heavily permeated the airwaves across the country with acts like Tzozo & Professor, Big Nuz, Dj Tira, Dj Sox, Dj Twitty, and more that embraced their then-new sound.

With Gqom’s accelerated success from 2009, the producers and consumers of the genre have reshaped its soundscape by drawing in more influence from current music styles, thus birthing new sub-genres. We take a deeper gaze at how each of them plays out in the Gqom culture.


Unti Style:
This Gqom sub-genre is named after producers “Unticipated Soundz” as homage to their leap of faith in creating a new style that features a beat pattern that has a swing that could be compared to a horse’s gallop, as it tends to have an extra kick within its 127 Beats Per Minute scale measurement. One of the first notable songs from this sub-genre was “Amanikiniki ” which Unti produced alongside Dj Lag.

Mbumbulu Style:
uMbumbulu is a small township in the southern region of Durban where local producers have honed their production style through the addition of Zulu indigenous drumlines to their sound. This style isn’t usually as consistent as the Unti-Style or any other, which speaks to the improvisation of the said drumlines. Some of the noted pioneers are Poiisen Chicks, Top Vanger Poiisen, TLC, Glisten & Mtama.

This title is taken from the Zulu traditional dance also known as “Ukugida.” Umgido is drawn fully from influences like uMaskandi, uMbhaqanga, and spiritual elements like chants, war cries and more that bring it closer to the heart of the listener, while reviving their energies through intense percussive elements. This sub-genre was led by a variety of producers that identified the need for spiritual awakenings within club culture.


The word “iSgubhu” directly translates to a plastic bottle, which is another hollow object. iSgubhu is also colloquially defined as loud noise emanating from a speaker system, marrying the object and its sound altogether. This sub-genre has a resemblance to traditional house music and is the most technical with regard to its mixing and mastering phase of production.

This genre receives the most airplay and has often been overlooked as a genre of its own in the past few years. Pioneered by Campmasters, Distruction Boyz, Infamous Boiz, DaSoul Boys, Vanger Boyz and more, they often gathered around 2013 in public spaces, sharing their music with people that were open to it.

With less than 2 years since its inception, this sub-genre’s growth was inevitable as its main influences are in its name. Techno being a global pre-existing genre, GqomTech has reached audiences far and wide that have celebrated its existence in festivals, clubs and more. Thriving artists like Lelowhatsgood, Omagoqa, Dj LeSoul, DeeTraits and more have opened the drawbridge for more international audiences.


Cape Gqom:
This sub-genre was founded in the Eastern Cape and flooded into the Western Cape (and the rest of South Africa) with its drums from iSgubhu and a new element of melodies that are drawn from local gospel music. Cape Gqom has won over the hearts of local audiences as the melodic arrangements are nostalgic and inspirational. Mshayi & Mr Thela have seen to it that this genre blossoms into the greatness it has become.

The past fourteen years of Gqom have been composed of experiments, collective movements, unique artistic expressions, losses and successes but the common thread is the preservation of its integrity. The archival of each step of its growth affirms the young creatives that have set off new paths in curating a richer space for music as a culture. The future of Gqom looks exciting!




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