In a digital age where an increasingly expansive sonic web connects music from far and wide, South Africa has emerged in recent years at the forefront of cutting-edge electronic sounds. Genres such as kwaito and shangaan electro have travelled far along these lines, reaching global audiences and garnering much acclaim along the way. Following this precedent, gqom is one of the more recent genres to emerge from the region’s underground. Originating in Durban’s townships, it’s a style which has found a second home in the UK, its resembling elements of bass, grime and funky resonating across Britain’s urban dance scene. Following releases from gqom exports Rudeboyz and DJ Lag on London-based outfit Goon Club Allstars, 19 year-old producer Dominowe is the newest Durbanite to make waves with his debut EP.
Staying true to gqom’s core structure, SiyaThakatha blends raw broken beat percussion with menacing synths and tribal rhythms in a record of relentless intensity. Newlands Mgido is an enticing opener, layering shimmering breaks, tribal kicks and skittering drum loops in a sparse percussive soundscape. The pace is kept high with tracks like City Rise and Bhenga Nezinja, with Dominowe exhibiting his mastery for both fierce synth hooks and driving minimal breaks. It’s a record which commands its listeners throughout its duration, and never more so in the slick productions of house-inclined Club Killer and standout track Umthakathi, a dancefloor ready banger comprised of sharp synth stabs and infectious vocal cuts.
Bursting with energy and innovative flair, SiyaThakatha sees Dominowe exhibiting the uniquely modern sound of urban South Africa's current musical landscape. It's both a mightily impressive debut and another defining moment in gqom's fast-evolving trajectory.
Words: Georgia Tobin