- Durban meets London on four sharp gqom tracks.
- Steam Rooms is the latest example of an ongoing musical dialogue between the UK and Durban, South Africa's second largest city and the home of gqom music. DJ Lag is probably gqom music's best-known DJ, and among the first to become well known outside of South Africa. Beyoncé's The Lion King soundtrack, which was released on the same day as Steam Rooms, features a DJ Lag co-produced track called "My Power," marking new commercial heights for the producer. Okzharp, a London-based South African producer, is known for his work as one-third of LV, and his releases with the South African vocalist Manthe Ribane.
2015 was gqom's breakout moment in Europe. Okzharp was signed to Hyperdub as a solo artist, while label head Kode9 started peppering gqom tracks into his sets. The London-based grime label Goon Club Allstars released EPs by Rudeboyz and DJ Lag. The Italian DJ Nan Kolé founded the label Gqom Oh! and released a great compilation that still serves as a perfect primer for newcomers to Durban's distinctive sound. The story is familiar: a fascination with micro scenes in far away places has become characteristic of a saturated and globalised Western club culture in the last decade. Yet there's something particularly natural about the South Africa/UK relationship. It doesn't take much of an imaginative leap to hear shades of grime, dubstep and UK funky in gqom's darkness, bass weight and broken groove.
Steam Rooms echoes the murky atmospheres and jagged beats of DJ Lag's previous EPs. There's an unrelenting, mesmeric tension that makes it easy to imagine tracks like "Now What" working brilliantly on dark dance floors, late at night. "Nyusa" is anthemic, built around an outrageous synth line (a standout moment and probably the clearest marker of genre cross-pollination). Steam Rooms is a collaboration that convincingly captures what the producers call a "South Durban via South London DNA… a heavy kawi-gqom vibe with a grimey, funky London twist." There are enough similarities between these two geographically distant sounds that Lag and Okzharp don't need to stray far from classic gqom sounds to achieve their hybrid.
A1 Now What
A2 Steam One