DJ Scriby // DJ Marillo // DJ Skothan - Gqom Trilogy


Highlighting the continuing evolution of Durban’s globally influential gqom sound, this special trilogy of releases showcases three separate artists from South Africa’s fertile musical landscape.

The set captures a fresh wave of gqom innovation from veteran producer DJ Skothan/DJ Scoturn, DJ Scriby, and 20-year old DJ MaRiiO. DJ Skothan/DJ Scoturn has been a key figure in Durban’s underground scene for many years, producing alongside Phelimuncasi, Bhejani, Tweeyking, Lafaristo, MaRiiO and DJ MP3. His gqom and house tracks have quietly provided a rumbling engine for the city’s scene, and “Nevegation” is his debut full-length, providing a complex diagram of his dance-floor versatility.

This isn’t the gqom you might expect to hear: immediately on opener ‘The Gringo’ familiar sounds – shovel kicks, chopped vocals, sampled gasps, horror movie strings – are shuffled into atypical patterns, creating jerky soundscapes rather than the expected four-on-the-floor bump. ‘Salut to DJ Lag’ pays respect to Durban’s Beyoncé-approved pioneer, but twists the template into a propulsive new form, adding rolling and evolving percussion that teases fractal shapes each bar. But the album’s most unexpected and forward-thinking moment arrives with the aptly titled ‘The King of Gqom’, a track that simmers the genre’s percussive sounds into limber sci-fi club futurism, tweaking the bass sounds into patterns that nod to dubstep, Jersey club and ballroom.

25-year-old DJ Scriby has been working behind the scenes since 2013, assisting the first wave of gqom innovators promote their sound both inside Durban and beyond. In 2017 he joined London’s Trax Couture to release “The Clermont EP”, and here he introduces his long-awaited follow-up “Izingoma zeGqomu”. Scriby’s approach to gqom is well-studied and self-aware, which gives him the ability to stretch the sound’s scope across the diaspora: just peep the Atlanta trap synths on the dynamic ‘Friday 13th’, or the absorption of tight grime snares on opening track ‘Goi’. Scriby’s engineering skill pushes his productions to the next level, lending slithering downtempo tracks like ‘Ouuu1’ and ‘Igqom Libuye’ a widescreen, big-room punch without losing the genre’s undulating funk.

And the producer even eyes the EDM mainstage with ‘Qumqum!!’, balancing saccharine synths with jerky kicks, claps and rolling toms. The youngest artist featured in the collection, DJ MaRiiO started producing when he was just 12 years old, watching YouTube production videos. “No one told me how to use FL Studio,” he admits, “and no one helped me doing different genres.” This might be why his music sounds so completely unique; the basic structure of gqom is still present, but MaRiiO augments these elements with youthful energy and carefree use of unusual sounds and production methods. “Zulu Man” opener ‘GQom NyeGe’ manages to mash together trance synths, DMZ bass and a driving woodblock rhythm that reminds you of its Durban roots, while the bizarre ‘Ngom ya Phesh’, featuring MaRiiO’s regular collaborator Hot Chicks on vocals, pushes the gqom template into the red, with overdriven kicks and disorienting environmental sounds.

All three records provide a 360 degree view of Durban’s contemporary underground, nodding to the past, present and future of gqom. It’s a genre that’s constantly in flux as it moves from South Africa’s bedrooms and basements to main stages and movie screens across the globe.

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