Music

Before Babes Wodumo: 5 tracks that kick-started the gqom revolution

Babes Wodumo may have helped move Durban's unique electronic sound into the mainstream with 'Wololo', but she wasn't the first to create a gqom anthem. Here are five notable tracks

03 December 2017 - 00:00 By Tseliso Monaheng
Kwaito singer Babes Wodumo at Orlando Stadium. Her song 'Wololo' released last year enjoyed plenty of air time.
Kwaito singer Babes Wodumo at Orlando Stadium. Her song 'Wololo' released last year enjoyed plenty of air time.
Image: Tseliso Monaheng

One of the biggest songs on radio last year was Babes Wodumo's Wololo. Deejays previously associated with mainstream house music have been riding the gqom wave ever since, with Euphonik's atrocious Tholukuthi Hey the latest addition to playlists. Bhizer's Gobisiqolo is a guaranteed hit at taverns.

Busiswa is one of the few visible artists whose roots go deep in the Durban gqom scene, which bubbled and remained largely unnoticed until Wodumo's hit made it acceptable to showcase in the mainstream.

Now, Distruction Boyz can enjoy rotation in clubs and taverns, and on the radio. Full-capacity stadiums rattle when Omunye or Madness are played. The duo is on the verge of re-modelling our collective Dezemba experience one vosho at a time.

It wasn't always like this.

Some of the key figures on the scene - guys like Sbucardo da Dj, Bhejane, oBen10 - are less likely now to be acknowledged for their contributions to this art form which thrives on minimalism.

The positive effect is that increased visibility has made it OK for unconventional artists to enter the fray. The likes of Faka, DJ Prie Nkosazana and, to a degree, Stiff Pap, Moonchild Sanelly and more, have better opportunities now for their interpretation of gqom to find an audience.

Here's an introduction to vintage cuts for those who are new to the gqom bheng:

1. WAM'NANDI UQOH BY DJ LUSIMAN (FT. BOBMAN)

The story: Lusiman was introduced by a friend to an associate at DJ Tira's Afrotainment. That meeting led to a listening session with DJ Cndo in attendance. "She played Tira a couple of my songs over the phone. He liked Wam'nandi uQhoh," says Lusiman.

The song was renamed Yamnandi Into and appears on Cndo's 2013 album Finest Lady of House: Vol 5. Tables still get danced upon when it is played.

WATCH | The music video for Yamnandi Into

2. THANA HOSH BY MADANON

The story: Madanon won the title in the season finale of Jika Majika in 2011. A chance recording of a song that he uploaded on Facebook the following year caught the attention of his friends, and landed him his first gig. He started recording more music, and quickly gained notoriety in the scene for his playful style. "Durban artists were accusing me of ruining Kwaito music," he recalls.

The Sbucardo-produced Thana Hosh set dancefloors alight upon its release in 2014, and went viral through links shared on gqom groups on Facebook. He's signed to Mampintsha's label West Ink.

3. NCOOH MAN BY BHIZER (FT. BHEJANE) 

The story: Bhejane can't recall what it was that led to writing the song, but he remembers the moment he heard the beat. "That's a well-known refrain where I'm from," he says. He hadn't known Bhizer prior to meeting him at an event one day. "He performed after my set at the show, and I knew one of the songs he sang that day very well." They exchanged numbers. Ncooh Man was recorded the next day.

4. GANDAGANDA BY DJ LUVAS & PLUTO 

The story: That Babes Wodumo's viral video-making genius has yet to be fully explored is a crime. A video emerged earlier this year in which she asked that everyone delete her song Gandaganda, from their USBs. Twitter went delirious with the memes.

It later emerged that Chatsworth-based DJ Luvas had recorded a song with a similar title a few months earlier. While Luvas may have a case - thievery is widespread not only in gqom, but in the larger creative industry - Gandaganda is a folk song, and hence open to anyone's interpretation.

Luvas and his homeboy Pluto have the better version of the two.

WATCH| The music video for DJ Luvas and Pluto's Gandaganda

5. 16TH STEP BY DJ LAG

The story: DJ Lag from Clermont in KwaZulu-Natal is an alchemist whose gqom sets build up in wondrous fashion. His minimal compositions leave space for the body to bend to its own rules; to freestyle to its own dance marathon.

What's often left untold is that the wunderkind is one of the scene's leading forces. He'd perfected his production approach by the time he finished matric, and has been searching for the perfect snare, kick and vocal sample to fuel his high-energy deck wizardry ever since.

He can increasingly be found on the road these days, playing shows in the UK or playing three-city tours across Mzansi.

WATCH | The music video for 16th Step

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