Gqom, perhaps no more than other forms of music, is a testosterone-driven genre where the record of female participation can sometimes go missing.
For example, Bhejane might take credit for uBaba ka Girl but the spirited, almost unhinged lead performance comes from a woman credited simply as Thando, who had no ambitions of being involved in the music scene. Similarly, the scene-setting intro to DJ Cndo and Lusiman’s Yamnand’ Into, is performed by a woman named Zinhle, who was a friend of Lusiman’s girlfriend.
The fact that Babes Wodumo is the first person (and perhaps the only person) you want to see in the video to her hit single Wololo is primarily what gives her claim to the self-styled title Queen of Gqom.
Babes, whose real name is Bongekile Simelane, is the red-maned preacher’s kid with the Instagram-wrecking vosho moves – a moniker that has become a movement unto itself – and luscious lips that are the only constant on a shape-shifting face that renders her anew in every photograph.
Babes’s moniker seems so meticulously chosen that she is now a self-perpetuating myth, with millions drinking her kool aid, trailing the myth of a breakout star without knowing what the buzz is about.
Off stage, Babes can be seen working through choreographed moves with students who attend her West Ink Dance Academy, acting cute with her bae and inspiring a “free Babes” dololo movement that wants to see her just once without having to dodge the hulking shadow of Mampintsha.
In interviews, Babes has the charming habit of refusing to speak English to interviewers, no matter how insistent the questioning.