Gqom mu­sic takes over New York dance floors

Bah’s mom is from Durban

Sunday World - - Front Page - Re­ports by Boi­tumelo Kgob­otlo kgob­ot­lob@sun­day­

South Africa has a new am­bas­sador to the US. Oh wait, this one is not based at the South African em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton DC.

Kadi­jah Bah is a DJ – young, fe­male and ex­cel­lent as flag bearer of Mzansi’s gqom mu­sic in the States.

New York-based Bah, who calls her­self DJ Afrikan Queen or sim­ply DJ AQ on stage, was born in the US to a mother from Durban.

The 24-year-old fell in love with the dance mu­sic genre that orig­i­nates from her mother’s birth place, as her own way of keep­ing her African roots alive. She ad­mits she en­coun­tered gqom and fell in love with it dur­ing her re­search into the lo­cal cul­ture.

DJ AQ has now not only in­tro­duced the uniquely South African sound to the dance floors of NY clubs but has also taken it a step fur­ther by pro­duc­ing some gqom mu­sic her­self.

“I was born in Har­lem, NY af­ter my mother es­caped apartheid South Africa in 1990. I got in­volved in mu­sic as early as when I was seven when I played vi­o­lin and took up danc­ing,” she said from the US.

“Af­ter fin­ish­ing ba­sic school­ing, I then stud­ied jour­nal­ism at the Buf­falo State Col­lege in upstate New York but my love for mu­sic never faded.

“My col­lege room­mate and I started throw­ing our own events as a hobby and at the time I played ev­ery­thing from hip-hop to dance­hall,” she said.

It was when she started sneak­ing into un­der­ground clubs that she re­alised her love for South African house mu­sic.

“They would have small un­der­ground events fea­tur­ing DJs like Louie Vega, Black Cof­fee and Cu­loe De Song and they would al­ways sell out in ev­ery club they played in.”

When DJ AQ’s ca­reer started get­ting se­ri­ous, she then in­tro­duced gqom to the Big Ap­ple club scene last year and rev­ellers went gaga over it.

“Now the genre is way more ac­ces­si­ble and glob­alised. The gqom wave has taken over al­most ev­ery club I go to.

“When I first in­tro­duced gqom to the com­mer­cial club scene, I was sur­prised by how re­cep­tive peo­ple were to it.

“I love it when New York­ers come up to me to show me their gwara-gwara and vosho. I feel very for­tu­nate that the nightlife scene has em­braced my style.

“It’s so pop­u­lar now that a lot of peo­ple are fans of artists like Sho Mad­jozi, Distruc­tion Boyz, DJ Lag and DJ Mapho­risa.”

The warm re­cep­tion en­cour­aged her to pro­duce her own songs. Her gqom sin­gle Qiniseka was re­leased ear­lier this year.

“In the next few years, I hope to am­plify the voices and tal­ents of the African di­as­pora in New York City, specif­i­cally women DJs who play Afro sounds.

“I want to keep us­ing my Har­lem-Durban du­al­ity as a cross-cul­tural con­nec­tor.”

Bah, who said she has been vis­it­ing South Africa al­most ev­ery year since she was born, had the hon­our to play in sev­eral gigs in Mzanzi in De­cem­ber.

“My el­der sis­ter moved to SA af­ter she grad­u­ated from high school here in New York be­cause she didn’t like it.

“On top of that, I hooked up with a South African girl who is study­ing in New York and she is now man­ag­ing me as part of her stud­ies. She got me some gigs and I played at the Great Dane and Co­coon in Joburg, Gold­bar in Cape Town and was also a guest DJ at YFM and Ga­gasi FM.”

Her man­ager Siba­balwe Mona, who is read­ing for a mas­ter’s de­gree in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs (African de­vel­op­ment), said: “I’m on a fel­low­ship that will help me build my own im­pact en­trepreneur­ship ven­ture that catal­y­ses African de­vel­op­ment through the cre­ative econ­omy and DJ AQ is my first client.”

DJ AQ said she would not rush into re­leas­ing an al­bum as she was still build­ing a solid foun­da­tion.

DJ Afrikan Queen plays gqom she learnt about from KZN.

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