Gqom—The Sound from the Townships of South Africa

The kids call it Gqom. DIY house music born in the suburbs of Durban, South Africa, the emergent genre has been recently featured in the indie documentary Woza Taxi. See what has all the kids moving as we take a trip through the streets of Durban, to the taxis and clubs that the Gqom sound calls home.

The name itself sounds like the boom of a bassline. Meaning “drum” in Zulu, Gqom is pronounced as a single syllable and starts with a palatal click reminiscent of the rhythmic kick drums of the genre. Born in the townships of Durban in South Africa, Gqom is derived from house music, but rawer, punctuated by halting beats, the drone of synthesizers and repetitive, onomatopoeic lyrics.  

Street house

Italian DJ and musician Nan Kolè joined forces with South African Lerato Phiri to create the label Gqom Oh! in an effort to carry the genre beyond the borders of South Africa. In collaboration with Rome’s Crudo Volta radio, they’ve just released a documentary entitled Woza Taxi, taken from the name of the taxis that play Gqom as they drive Durban kids to city clubs located in South Beach. The film highlights a few of the genre’s leading DJs and artists, such as Dominowe, DJ Mabheko, Forgotten Soulz, Mafia Boyz and Formation Boyz.

Created primarily by musicians in their bedrooms using Fruity Loops software, Gqom could be called the electro of the streets—it’s DIY house music that feels accessible, unlike more heavily-produced studio house music. As one of the musicians in Woza Taxi tells us: “We created our own genre because if you want to make house music, you have to learn how. But with Gqom, if you practice enough, you can master it perfectly.”

From the townships of Durban to London Clubs

Created on PCs, made popular by the taxis bumping the latest tracks as they cruise around the city, and distributed via Facebook groups and sites like (which literally means “mp3 of the townships”), Gqom is free from the typical circuits of the music industry. Gqom creators made up their own distribution networks and were so successful at it that they’ve been able to reach DJs outside of the country. Ready to dance to some Gqom tracks?

If you want to get to know Gqom and Bengha, the dance music of South Africa, watch the documentary below and listen to the mixtape Gqom Oh! put out to accompany the release.

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Article translated by Andrea Perdue