iGqomu: a short history

We've all experienced that sensation. When a Gqom song is blaring out the speakers and our souls leave our bodies. But what's the history behind it? 

By  | Jun 22, 2020, 01:45 PM 

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Babes Wodumo

When you hear the story of how Gqom came to be it's hard to believe that it's now one of South Africa's biggest musical exports. 

iGqomu was conceived in the backrooms of then up-and-coming house producers in Durban and found an audience in people who lived in the townships and were takers of taxi's daily. 

Distruction Boyz 'Omunye'

Read: Distruction Boyz blame Khanyi Mbau for Omunye video delay

In the end, the name of this sub-genre would depend on who you were asking. To the guys on the street 'iGqomu', (basically, the sound the music would make when it was played in the taxis),  to the ladies at the parties 'umculo wamatekisi' (taxi music) to the old people, well, it was just umsindo.  Of course, they were correct in calling it all of these because, well, you'd only ever hear the latest Gqom in Durban taxi's and it didn't shy away from the noise. 

So, if you were using a taxi to move from any section eMlazi or you were taking a young tour down South Coast you'd get the latest Gqom (actually, when I was home recently to not miss my 7am flight I found myself in a taxi at 05:45 and guess what was playing?). 

In the taxi

Of course, just like South African hip-hop had Slaghuis, Gqom had its clubs in Durban. Havana, in Durban, was was the one place you could always go into and find people heaving and bodies shoving each other on the dancefloor. I'd go as far as to say: if you've never actually been to eHavana you haven't had the proper Gqom experience. Havana is where uk'bhenga (not forgetting i-vosho) were birthed. 


With its evolution outside of Durban though, Gqom has found a perfect partner in streetwear/street fashion. Back in the day you'd see Carvela and DH clad guys with gold teeth coming out of Quantums outside Havana, that developed into skinny jeans and Air Forces and it ended up settling on Vans, Palace t-shirts and Kappa track pants. One could say that the same way Gqom suddenly became a 'sub-genre' of house music, is the same way street wear suddenly became 'street fashion' so in a sense it was 2 outsiders coming together. 

Distruction Boyz red cupping

So, what's next for iGqom? Well, one could ask the same question about what's coming up after trap. Nobody knows. But while we're here, might as well shut up and groove. Take a listen to our playlist of underrated Gqom joints and try to keep still. 

Main Image Credit: Instagram/@Babes_Wodumo

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