Though the sounds of Africa get sporadic credit for being a source of inspiration to a variety of different genres, it is not often that one sees an authentically African dance movement sweep the global underground off its feet. In recent years, Gqom has managed to do so in an unprecedented way. Born in the townships of Durban, it has spread not only nationwide but also to major electronic music destinations such as London and Berlin.
With sounds that are ethnically rooted yet not too distant from house, techno and footwork, Gqom remains unique and mysterious but still accessible to a wide audience. With local figureheads such as DJ Lag and RudeBoyz laying the foundations, there are naturally many young members of the scene that are vying for a place at the top of the food chain – and although the sound of Gqom has spread its wings far and wide, many of its unsung heroes live in less-than-ideal circumstances.
One such artist is DJ Scriby, a 23-year-old producer hailing from the heart of the Gqom sound, Clermont in Durban, South Africa. Having already released on London-based party-brand-turned-label Trax Couture, his sights are set on making further impact on a global scale. With a passion for collaboration and a deep patriotism for his hometown, we caught up with him to find out more.
You reference your hometown Clermont a lot in your tracks. How is your sound influenced by growing up in this space? What is a regular day in the life in a township in Durban?
Clermont (Skomplaz) is a place of unique nightlife and lifestyle where you can hear many different styles of music that are making the world dance. The Gqom and Sgubhu (afro-house subgenre) that is produced here is just as unique. On a regular day I would be visiting other producers and collaborators or chilling with friends.
For those who don’t understand, what is Gqom? What does it mean to be part of the movement and why is it important that the world takes notice?
Gqom literally refers to a ‘drum hit’ or ‘bang’, but when you explain it as a genre the words that come to mind are ‘raw’, ‘bassy’ and ‘dark’. Being part of the movement is a gift – and if I were to reveal all my hard work to people, they would be amazed! I feel like I have come a long way since I first started, and I think it is time for my voice to be heard along with the voices of all the other upcoming artists that I work with.
The Gqom sound has become very popular overseas and particularly so in Europe. However, is there enough support in your own country or do you feel like you get more support from international artists and labels?
Yes, there is support from our country for this music. However, it is still very much about ‘who you know’ in order to get noticed by the greater public. But the best support is already coming from the rest of the world, especially in places like UK where DJs, artist, labels and clubs are interested in what we do.
You’ve released on London-based Trax Couture. How did you manage to get your music on this label and how has it helped you as a young artist?
Since the days when I was helping DJ Lag reach his success, I asked Skinny Macho (Bone Soda, UK) for advice on which labels I should try to release on. At that time, he said I should chat to Rushmore of Trax Couture, which by coincidence was a label that I already had in mind. So the decision made perfect sense! Releasing on the label has really given me the chance to get my music heard, but I believe there is still a lot to be done – this is just the start!
It is clear that you like to collaborate and that you have a passion for helping other young talent. Who are some of the guys you are working with that we should look out for?
I’m currently working with my favorite vocalist, Penny. She really can do vocals for any style from hip-hop to r&b and Gqom. Some other artists that I am collaborating with include Original Pantsula, Mami, DJ Andy and Rootsounds.
What does the future look like for Scriby? What are some of the exciting things happening for you in the next few months?
As a versatile artist, I would say that my future looks bright! I’m in the process of making provisional plans for a small UK tour and I’m hoping that I can work with Trax Couture to facilitate that. It would be a dream to play in some of my favourite clubs overseas!