History will remember DJ LAG as a pioneer who propelled the quintessentially Durban Gqom sound beyond the confines of the coastal city, straight into the capitals of the international electronic music industry.
At first listen, it might not appear that Gqom’s minimalist, bass-heavy sound would take Lwazi Asanda Gwala from Clermont township in Durban to commanding dancefloors in Europe and Asia. But DJ Lag’s superb production skills have played a big part in transforming a sub-genre of house – one that began by soundtracking taxi trips around Durban – to an enviably innovative participant in the global scene.
Since he first surfaced several years ago, DJ Lag has played several major South African events, including the 2015 Johannesburg-leg of Boiler Room, and the 2016 Cape Town Electronic Music Festival. He also shared a platform with electronic music heavyweights Skrillex and Euphonik at the Bridges For Music knowledge-sharing workshop held in Kliptown, Soweto, in February 2016. “I believe gqom will be way bigger than deep house,” DJ Lag says of the genre that he’s leading.
Following his set at the G-Star Raw x Boiler Room Sessions in Johannesburg in 2015, New York-based The Fader wrote: “DJ LAG stepped up to the decks to show exactly why everyone’s going crazy for Gqom. The minimal house genre born from the coastal city of Durban is dark, heated, and easy to lose yourself in.” Felix a.k.a producer Moleskin, a co-founder of London label Goon Club Allstars – which has released DJ Lag’s self-titled EP – told Dazed & Confused: “When I first heard Gqom it felt like music that I’d been waiting to hear.”
“Gqom music makes you think of fun, nothing else but fun,” DJ Lag told The Wire in January 2017. And the fun of Gqom is evident in the video for “Ice Drop”, one of four tracks off DJ Lag’s acclaimed self-titled EP, issued in November 2016 by Goon Club Allstars. The video features several stunning overhead shots of DJ Lag’s local neighbourhoods in KwaDabeka and Clermont, intercut with shots of the artist’s immediate environment – both providing a glimpse into the context in which his hypnotic, infectious Gqom tunes are created.
The 21-year-old made his live global debut in the closing months of 2016, starting at the Unsound Festival in Poland and finishing up at Seoul’s Cake Shop nearly a month later. He’s got a string of international dates lined up for 2017, springboarding off an epic 3-shows-in-3-weekends-in-3 cities tour that closed out 2016 as DJ Lag launched his EP to his South African fans. Switzerland and the Donau Festival in Austria are just some of the electronic music hotspots where music fans will experience the Gqom King’s ability to use the sparsest production tools to create some of the most evocative, soulful even, electronic music around.
It’s a stunning rise for an artist just in his 20s. But, DJ Lag’s ready to put in the work required for longevity in a hard business. As he told OkayAfrica in 2016, “If you’re following your passion you don’t feel much pressure. I’m taking it one step at a time to see where it’s actually heading. So far it’s going proper and we’re just hoping for the best. We’re just working as a team with the rest of the gqom guys – we’re just working as a unit. I don’t feel much pressure – it’s not like I’m on top top top – I’m just on my way.”
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