How many Americans know gqom music? How many Americans could say “gqom”? I don't know the answer to either one of these questions, but I'd wager more Americans have heard gqom than are aware of it, thanks to Citizen Boy and Gqom Oh!'s soundtrack work for Nike and EA Sports.
It was a year of African artists taking their place as accomplished pop musicians of the world, escaping the dreaded “world music” moniker. They brought their own unique sensibilities to reggaeton tracks, hip-hop, and even the latest album from a classic rock icon. They showed up on soundtracks for movies set in Africa, but sometimes their continent of origin didn't even come up. They even took their place in that other musical conduit: commercial work.
Citizen Boy, whom Afropop listeners will remember being featured on “The Gqom Generation of Durban, South Africa” program, provided the music for a pretty great Nike commercial. I'm no sneaker freak, but those Nike guys know what they're doing, and they chose the right man for the job. Citizen Boy told Afropop's Akornefa Akyea that the test for music for him is whether or not it gives him “goosebumps.” Mission accomplished.
Citizen Boy signed Emo Kid to his Durban-township-based label Gqom Oh! EA Sports signed Emo Kid to soundtrack their mini-documentary on a South African-born way to play and show off on the soccer field, Kasi Flava. As opposed to the Nike commercial, which didn't have any specific reference to Africa visually, the subject matter here demands South African music and it speaks to Emo Kid's growing stature that he got the nod.
In any case, congrats to Gqom Oh! for getting the nod! When last we spoke to them, they were working out of Citizen Boy's room using "proper-not exactly proper- basic studio stuff"—with that sweet Nike money rolling in, I can't wait to see what the label gets up to in 2020.