From Clermont to LA, Meet DJ Lag, the king of Gqom
From his humble beginnings in Clermont, Lwazi Gwala, 24, widely known as DJ Lag, has travelled to every continent except Antarctica, mixing music with the likes of Skrillex and Euphonik, flying the flag of Durban gqom music higher than most could only dream of.
He has played at several major South African events, including the 2015 Johannesburg leg of Boiler Room and the 2016 Cape Town Electronic Music Festival.
The producer started out as a dancer.
“We used to have dance crews in Clermont and we’d have battles at KK Hall. My cousin is a rapper, so he took me to the studio where he recorded music and after meeting the guy who used to make beats for my cousin, I asked him how I could get the software to make music and he gave me the software,” the DJ said.
Family was key to Lag’s success, with his mother buying him his own computer in 2008 to make music. He officially began deejaying in 2011.
Originally focusing on hip hop, Lag shifted his attention to tribal house, before settling with gqom.
“My sound changed when I started making gqom. I wasn’t really being recognised when I was making hip hop and tribal house music. I received a lot of attention with my gqom music. That’s when my music started being played everywhere,” he said.
Although still drawing on hip hop samples for his music, it is gqom that has given this local township lad an international name, turning his life into a whirlwind of experiences.
Sitting in front of his television in his Clermont home, waiting for Beyoncé’s performance at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, led to a jaw-dropping moment for DJ Lag, when the music mogul danced to his track Trip to New York.
“The opportunity to work with Beyoncé came about when she came down for Global Citizen. Someone who works with her reached out to me, asked me to meet him and came down to Durban,” the artist said.
After touching down at Los Angeles International Airport last June to celebrate the work he had done with Beyoncé, he was given the opportunity to work at Parkwood Studios in the US, adding the finishing touches to My Power, a track off Beyoncé’s 2019 album titled The Lion King: The Gift, featuring Nija, Beyoncé, Busiswa, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack and Moonchild Sanelly.
The track was not only a success, garnering more than 2 million views on YouTube, but also afforded DJ Lag the opportunity to attend the 2020 Grammy Awards as The Lion King: The Gift was nominated for best pop vocal album.
He described the Grammys as the greatest experience of his life, a defining moment in his career.
The artist has also dazzled in other parts of the US, playing at Afropunk Atlanta, and also travelled to Turkey for Sónar Istanbul.
After travelling the globe, DJ Lag is back in his home town and working on his first album
His latest music video, featuring Moonchild Sanelly, Uhuru Dis, is a realism-infused gqom musical set in eThekwini, and is based on the standout track on DJ Lag’s Uhuru EP, which pays homage to the Uhuru club in Clermont.
Offering encouragement to other musicians, Durban’s quintessential gqom DJ said: “Wherever you come from, if you love something, you can make it. I’m coming from Clermont, a small township in Durban, and I never thought I’d see myself at the Grammys and travelling the world.
“Just know that anything is possible.”The Independent on Saturday