Gqom (a Zulu word that roughly translates to "drum" or "hit") is a regional variant of South African house that comes from the coastal city of Durban. The name reflects the sound's simplicity: gqom is ultra-clubby, stripped-back music that takes the slinky swing of kwaito and isolates its core elements. It sounds like swollen UK funky, so it's no surprise that it's earned a small fan base in London, including Goon Club Allstars, who are behind this EP from scene kingpins Rudeboyz and Menchess. The first time I heard gqom in action was at FWD>> in London, where the Goon Club DJs played a storming, relentless set that showed gqom fits with both the ongoing lineage of UK dance music and the forward-thinking approach that FWD>> represents.
Rudeboyz' "Get Down" is the obvious hit, and it's colossal. The kick drum isn't all that heavy, but it doesn't need to be: the melody falls in staggered patterns on blown-up chords that evoke the rhythmic pressure of Crazy Couzinz' "Inflation." The sense of hysteria is only heightened by the larger-than-life vocal samples. "Sambuka Dance" is made with a similar recipe (a cycled, heavily swung pattern), but it's more spacious, and the duo fill in the blanks with heavy tom fills that add some melodrama. "Mercedes Song" and Menchess' "Mitsubishi Song" are both named after pressed pills, which should give you an idea of their provenance. The former is the most dynamic of the Rudeboyz tracks, with clever percussive interplay and ominous chanting from TD Snax. Menchess' sole contribution is extra funky, trading the foreboding largesse of Rudeboyz for something more light and playful. Think Scratcha DVA.
It's the almost threatening sense of scale, captured particularly well by Rudeboyz, that separates gqom from its related club styles. With a gqom compilation on the way through another label, the genre could reach new audiences this year. The Rudeboyz EP is a fantastic introduction, and it's one of the biggest club records I've heard all year.
TracklistA1 Rudeboyz - Get Down
A2 Rudeboyz - Mercedes Song feat. Td Snax
B1 Menchess - Mitsubishi Song
B2 Rudeboyz - Sambuka Dance