There can’t be many musicians unbowed by the prospect of naming a new album after the very genre their music inhabits, but Griffit Vigo is one exception. The Durban native has after all been one of the foremost proponents of gqom music over the past sixteen years, establishing himself as a major player in South Africa’s underground electronic scene.
I am Gqom is made up of nine tracks firmly aimed at the club, a collection of new music and different versions of the producer’s back catalogue (there is a 2020 remastered version of ‘Ree’s Vibe’). Described by Vigo as “Ancestral Futurism”, this is an intense LP that does not let up an inch.
One of the record’s best songs is ‘Run’, an exhibition in mounting tension through sharp percussion and chopped vocals. It is a raucous track, which has earned support from the likes of Scratcha DVA/Scratchclart, who dropped it during a guest mix for BBC Radio 1’s Toddla T last month.
Scratchclart has been one of gqom’s champions on British radio for years (having also collaborated with Vigo on a few tracks), signalling how the music’s influence now extends far beyond the country of its birth.
As can sometimes be the case with foreign or unknown genres, trying to describe gqom’s sound tends to become an exercise in couching the style in phrases more recognisable to our own insular ears. To that end, listening to ‘I am Gqom’, some might see similarities between the album and grime, broken beat, UK Funky, house, Afro beats, reggae or hip-hop.
Nominal categorisations aside, one way to describe the LP is that it places a firm focus on drums, percussion and rhythm, underpinned by vocal samples that are equally catchy and haunting. The release’s crunching low end means it is clear why gqom releases, and Griffit Vigo in particular, will continue to be essential records in the hands of DJs across the globe.