Gqom, the raw, dark, hypnotic electronic music genre emerged out of KwaZulu-Natal in 2008, but really began to gather steam only from 2011 onwards. Gqom was a move towards minimalism, a reduction of kwaito and house to their base elements, stripping away everything until there was just a beat, with vocals consisting of a shout, grunt or chant.
Gqom may have started out as a four-four beat, but in 2011, the offbeat was introduced. The kick was broken and syncopated, creating “offbeat dance techno”, as journalist Kwanele Sosibo describes it in an article titled ‘The New Underground’. In the article, Sosibo interviews one of gqom’s innovators, 25-year-old Sbucardo da DJ, who recalls proto-gqom tracks emerging in 2008 in the nearby township of KwaMashu, north of Durban.
“Back then it wasn’t offbeat, though,” says Sbucardo. “I came up with the offbeat from watching people dance. They would react even more to something a little offbeat, so I pursued that.” Sbucardo says his first offbeat hit was Haibo Hey, released in 2011 through file-sharing site Kasimp3.co.za.