10 Years of Gong (-1993 to 2003+)

Kwaito is a child of many. It has many namesakes with umbilical chords buried in multiple sites across the land. Of its many names, Sghubu is king. It occurred to me recently that Xigubu in Xitsonga is a term that refers not only to the drum for pre-initiation boys, but the drum’s manufacturing process (by the boys), the study of its tonal qualities, a musical repertoire that goes with it as well as accompanying dance practice (taken up and performed by girls) up to inter-village exchanges in the form of competitions (much like inter-township pantsula ‘competitions’).


For years though, Sghubu in isicamtho spoke to Kwaito. This gets very very interesting in my study of Kwaito and South African music histories. Now that Dj Ganyani made ‘Xigubu’ in 2013, with a back-to-the-roots video set towards and in Limpopo (Giyani) with some elements of Xigubu practice, I can connect these dots. The term Sghubu continues in its trajectory, dropped in House lyrics and Kwaito-influenced urban music expressions. It is my belief that in the national collective, the term Sghubu found a home in Kwaito, although it is seemingly a concept that lives beyond any genre in mainstream terms. Elsewhere I wrestle with Sghubu as referred to in Kwaito:

The use of the term Sghubu is a claim to Kwaito’s unofficial name. Sghubu is a hardcore Kwaito banger. However, like the soundsystem in Jamaican communities, Sghubu can equally refer to a physical sound system and a headspace. Interestingly, the term has traveled with the evolution of black dance music since Kwaito, easily heard in most current House offerings.

Some people may remember the early days in the journey of what we have come to accept as Kwaito, when several names were on the table negotiating this then new sound in urban dance. Since 1993 when names flew around, Gong for me remains the underlying Sghubu sound.

Left - right: LM Jam Goes Gong (Ngipompe), LM Jam Goes Gong (LM Jam Goes Goeng), LM Jam (The Second Phase), Let Mdu Jam (The Other Side)

Left – right: LM Jam Goes Gong Ngipompe (1999), LM Jam Goes Gong LM Jam Goes Gong! (1998), LM Jam The Second Phase (1995) and Let Mdu Jam The Other Side (1998).

Big up Lindelani Mkhize behind the spreadsheets, Mdu behind the keys, Joe Nina in melodies and many other children of Gong and D’Gong (the cousins at Kalawa Jazmee). Long live foundations of an evolving black sound.

I am battling to define in words the Gong sound, so here I offer Wa Bua from LM Jam ‘The Second Phase’ (1995).


I have this dynamic growing text/mix on Gong and how it occupied a grootman space in the House of Kwaito. Coming out now-now. Watch this space for reviews on key Gong albums with Mma Tseleng the goat of the road. Listening parties are scheduled for the summer of 2014 celebrating 10 years of Gong!