Umqhumo Wethu is a textural dream, utilising industrial and metallic sounds achieved via distorted synths and trancey riffs. Described by Pan-African Music as “having the freshest, rawest, sound around”, Umqhumo Wethu is a feat of Omagoqa’s musical endeavours, coining their own genre terms uThayela and Is’qinsi as a reflection of this newness.
Comprised of Njabulo Sibiya (Chase), Andile Mazibuko (Ma A), and Franco Makhathini (KB), they merge, mesh, and fuse their individual styles to create fresh new sounds that elevate traditional dance music. Their main musical influence is gqom which, for context, was developed from the South African sub-genre of house music called kwaito. It is through these two forms of electronic dance music that Omagoqa can create such a unique energy.
Omagoqa combines raw heavy basslines built on percussive foundations with smooth and organic vocals. Deeply rooted in the sound of Zulu drums, Omagoqa strives to retain the original meaning and feeling of house in Umqhumo Wethu. Their main goal is to spark joy in their listeners with their club-orientated sound which is 100% achieved. Introducing, Omagoqa.
Hi Omagoqa, great to speak with you! To get the ball rolling, can you introduce yourselves to our readers?
We're Omagoqa, a music production trio from South Africa. Our journey in music production started individually, with Chase (Njabulo Sibiya) beginning in 2012, Ma A (Andile Mazibuko) also began in 2012 and KB (Franco Makhathini) joining in 2014. We merged our skills and styles to form Omagoqa, blending our diverse experiences and influences to create a unique sound.
How did you all get involved in music production? I assume you all had different experiences growing up and developed as artists in diverse environments. How have these differences influenced your collective sound?
Growing up in different environments and having varied experiences has shaped our individual perspectives and approaches to music production. Our collective sound is a fusion of these differences, with gqom being a significant influence. We aim to retain the genre's raw energy, heavy basslines, and percussive elements in our projects, including Umqhumo Wethu.
Gqom is your biggest genre influence, but what are the most important aspects of this genre that you wish to retain in your projects, specifically in your EP Umqhumo Wethu?
The sound is deeply rooted in Zulu drums, which are made with cowhide stretched over a tin barrel. Their infectious sound is normally associated with traditional Zulu dance that is accompanied by chants which some describe as being able to send one into a trance. That is essentially what we always try to keep when producing.
You coined the terms uThayela and Is’qinsi, uThayela translating from Zulu meaning corrugated iron. Do you, therefore, feel an extra responsibility to increase and develop the kwaito and gqom sound now that you have contributed to adding an extra layer to these genres?
Yes, we feel a responsibility to contribute to the evolution of gqom and kwaito sounds. Our terms uThayela and Is’qinsi describe a harder, club-oriented sound. We strive to innovate while honouring the genres' roots.
You said these terms are used to describe “a rougher sound with a harder bassline that is made for clubs”, but how do you imitate the sounds of rough and hardy materials such as metal? What techniques or instruments do you use to create this silvery sound, and have these sounds made their way into Umqhumo Wethu?
To achieve the silvery sound, we experiment with distorted synths, heavy basslines, and percussive elements. We draw inspiration from industrial and metallic sounds, incorporating these textures into our music. These techniques are featured on Umqhumo Wethu.
How do you approach the creation of a new single or EP? Does it begin as a collective brainstorm, or is it more of a go-with-the-flow type situation?
Our creative process often begins with a collective brainstorm, followed by an organic, go-with-the-flow approach. We allow ideas to evolve naturally, ensuring our music remains authentic and true to our vision.
Your music is made for the masses to let them feel the “indigenous authenticity of sound”. How do you manage to create music that adapts for both individual and collective listening? Has this proven difficult when creating this new EP?
We aim to create music that resonates with both individual and collective listeners. We achieve this by blending traditional elements with modern production techniques, making our sound accessible and relatable.
What does iNumber Number represent and what do you hope it sparks within listeners? What is it about iNumber Number that you felt was significant enough to release ahead of the EP?
iNumber Number represents our unique blend of gqom and kwaito, with a modern twist. We hope it sparks a sense of energy and joy in listeners. Its significance lies in its innovative production and catchy vocals, making it a standout track.
Khanyisa Jaceni is the feature vocals on iNumber Number. How was it getting to collaborate with another equally as talented creator?
Working with Khanyisa was an incredible experience. Her talent and creativity brought a new dimension to iNumber Number. We appreciate her contribution to the track. We co-produced the song with DBN Gogo which was a dream come true for us.
Are there any unsung heroes on this EP that you would like to mention for their role in contributing to the EP production?
We'd like to acknowledge our team, including our manager and designers, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to support our vision and also our friends Dee Traits and ZVRI who are part of this EP. Those are the two brands that we work with the most who are also pioneers of this sound.
Finally, what is one venue that you would love to perform in that you think would enhance the sound and feel of Umqhumo Wethu?
We'd love to perform at the iconic Berghain in Berlin. Its renowned sound system and immersive atmosphere would perfectly complement the energy and feel of Umqhumo Wethu.