‘Poster boy’ or his preferred descriptor of “king of gqom”—there’s no disputing DJ Lag has propelled the raw, foot-stomping, quintessential sound of Durban’s townships into the global music arena. A dark, minimalist, bass-heavy sound, full of offbeat thumps and stunted vocal snippets—DJ Lag’s visceral, evocative tunes continue to showcase its continued mutations.
Hailing from Durban’s Clermont township, Lag began producing rap instrumentals in 2010 for his brother, before finding his sweet spot crafting jerky rhythms that sit somewhere between house and hip-hop using FruityLoops software. Known as a key ambassador for the cutting-edge sounds of Durban’s underground, Lag has released much of his DIY output democratically, through file-sharing platforms such as WhatsApp, including his Trip To New York EP. Slowly but steadily, Lag and others have taken their hypnotic beats, long known for soundtracking taxi rides around Durban, all the way to the hallowed halls of Berghain, where Lag served up a three-hour set of uninterrupted, hardcore gqom. On the heels of Kwaito house and Shangaan electro before it, the house sub-genre of gqom – born in the coastal South African city has also sparked its associated dance, the bhenga – all undulating arms and wobbly knees – and without surprise, Lag himself was a bengha dancer until producing took up all his time.
Since making his live global debut in late 2016 at Poland’s Unsound Festival, this Durban cultural heavyweight has taken gqom all the way to Russia, South Korea, Swaziland and now Montréal, where he’ll cap off the festival’s opening night with a thunderous hybrid live DJ set.