DJ Lag once again delivers a singular creativity with his latest video – a visually stunning, Gqom-style retelling of Romeo & Juliet. Taken off DJ Lag’s Uhuru EP and featuring South African musician, Moonchild Sanelly, “Uhuru Dis” has been turned into a magical realism-infused Gqom musical, set in the coastal city of Durban. “Uhuru Dis: Romeo & Juliet, A Gqom love story” was executively produced by Black Major and directed by Chris Kets, who also helmed DJ Lag’s “Ice Drop” and recently captured DJ Lag’s visit to LA to celebrate his work on Beyoncé’s 2020 Grammy-nominated The Lion King: The Gift.
Watch DJ Lag’s Uhuru Dis ft Moonchid Sanelly here
The video casts DJ Lag as Friar Laurence who oversees and blesses Romeo & Juliet’s marriage from his altar of the DJ Booth. Moonchild Sanelly takes the role of the “Chorus” in traditional Shakespeare, her lyrics about not judging people for what they choose to do provide a potent commentary on the unfolding drama.
Echoing Lag’s generous approach to his music production and performing, the video embraces all facets of Gqom’s evolving aesthetic including fashion, dance and story-telling. It also reflects the DIY and punk-approach to the music genre that DJ Lag helped innovate, evolve – most recently into the harder style of Gqom called “uThayela – and take it to the world.
“Uhuru Dis is the first ever Gqom musical in the style of Gqom MCing – telling the story of a night out gone wrong,” says Kets. “The classic tale of Romeo and Juliet fit perfectly into the world of Gqom and the beachfronts of Durban. We remixed something known to the world and made it Gqom.”
In creating the video, DJ Lag and Kets worked with Artchild, the leader of the Durban dance and creative company, 031 Movement. Alongside playing Juliet in the video (to Luzuko of the 031 Movement’s Romeo), Artchild sourced the dancers from her collective and worked on the video’s imaginative and striking styling and wardrobe. The latter references South Africa’s Skhotane culture and made use of “Bleselo” style on jackets and pants, giving the video’s characters an anime gang-style look.
One of the most compelling features of the video is the choreography, which combines Gqom Bhenga style and Amapiano’s ‘pouncing cat’ moves – and culminates in a memorable, Bollywood-esque dance-off on Durban’s Venice beach-esque beachfront.
“Uhuru Dis” is a standout track on DJ Lag’s Uhuru EP which was released in August 2019 and paid homage to the Uhuru club in Durban’s Clermont township. At the time, DJ Lag stated that “With this EP, I want to bring the world’s attention to where it all started. We called this style of Gqom ‘uThayela,’ which means ‘corrugated iron,’ to describe a rougher sound with a harder bassline that is made for clubs. For me, it all started in UHURU, a small club in my township of Clermont. I played my first gig there, which was probably one of the first times that Gqom was heard by the public.”
History will remember South Africa’s DJ Lag (Lwazi Asanda Gwala) as a pioneer who propelled the quintessentially Durban Gqom sound beyond the confines of club Uhuru, straight into the capitals of the international electronic music industry. DJ Lag’s superb production skills have played a colossal part in transforming this sub-genre of house — one that began by sound-tracking taxi trips around Durban and is typified by its minimal and raw sound with heavy, percolating kicks — to an enviably innovative participant in the global scene.
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