Son Raw met some very sound people at that Gqom party, who got him back to his hotel when his phone died.
We fear the future. After the past few weeks, that much is clear. Collective action to show unity in the face of corporate-fascist rule, while admirable, comes out of fear of what’s to come, something reflected in our weariness to embrace new sounds. 10 years ago, the most forward-thinking (if not most likeable) pop star was a plunderphonics magpie mashing together ideas without even considering the negative consequences. That approach will get you a stern lecture and a think piece in 2017.
And yet, this fear of the future and of the new isn’t universal, it’s centered around a shell shocked first world west. If hip European and American DJs are weary to stake their careers on adventurous sounds, and if most music journalists refrain from championing the next big thing for fear of appropriation (or just being wrong), the solution is to do it yourself. Durban’s Gqom DJs have done just that, finding champions in small, self-starting labels like Italian DJ Nan Cole’s Gqom Oh and London bass imprint Goon Club Allstars, and building from there. There’s yet to be a major—or even a big indie—label championing Gqom but it’s made its way to ears that would have seemed impossible even two years ago. When you give it a chance, the internet still works.
I’d break down Gqom, but frankly you’d be much better off listening to Resident Advisor’s discussion with Nan Cole and producer DJ Lag—they do a better job of evangelizing the sound than I ever could. I will however, point you to DJ Lag’s Goon Club Allstars EP, and the amazing video for “Ice Drop,” as an excellent entry point into the style. Dark, broken, and dubby without being beholden to influences that spawned those words, the music is a potent kick in the face, particularly given that the overall house ur-genre has become this decade’s answer to the necrophilic indie of the 2000s. The video meanwhile, depicts Durban as dark but seductive, taking in and spitting out Youtube video culture for a part of the world that isn’t on most people’s radars, but very well should be.
From there, DJ Lag and Nan Cole’s live set is the next spot to deep dive—I first got hooked on the sound while hearing the two mix at a rowdy club night in London last October, and it’s one of those sounds best appreciated in a full set, on a system. The compulsion to move is inevitable.
There’s no need to sugarcoat it, the future is dark. But there’s no reason to fear the dark music that’s set to soundtrack it, and when nothing is as it should be, the only option is to explore new ones.