Review: Cape Town Electronic Music Festival

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24 to 24 July 2019


There is no such thing as personal space at an electro party. Once you enter the dance pit you cease to exist. You merge with the other closely-packed bodies; your movements controlled by the puppet master behind the decks. There is no better feeling in the world than the anxious expectation of the build-up, hundreds of arms in the air waiting for that one, epic moment of release. The DJ drags it out for as long as he dares, until the rapturous crowd can’t take it a moment longer. When it drops, there is no more crowd – it’s just one big fluid bounce, rising and falling in time to the bass thundering out of the speakers. This is the cult of electronic music, and its followers are many.

Now in its second year, the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (#CTEMF) is a celebration of the genre and features some of South Africa’s hottest electronic acts such as Sibot, Niskerone, Mix and Blend and Haezer. This year’s festival kicked off with three days of workshops at the Red Bull Studios (12-14 February) that aimed to unpack the local electronic music business. The popularity of these events was evidenced by the packed venues and frequency of live Tweets coming from participants.  There was also a variety of satellite parties happening around the festival featuring artists that didn’t make the bill, in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, including the official after party at Chukkachurri.

The highly anticipated festival culminated in a three day electronic music extravaganza that took place over the weekend. On Friday night, fans braved howling winds and an unexpected cold spell to support their favourite DJs, including Tommy Gun, Richard the Third, Jacobsnake and Killer Robot.  The headliner was British electronic music godfather, Richie Hawtin, who also goes by the name Plastikman. Hawtin’s phenomenal set was well worth braving the cold.

The second day, minus the wind, saw a better turnout. An unexpected delight was internet sensation Shangaan Electro, who made their stage debut. The Afro-electro ensemble entertained the crowd with their energetic dance performances and distinctive fast-paced marimba beat. DJ Dog seemed determined to reach his target of 190 beats per minute, much to the delight of the bouncing crowd.

Another highlight was a brief performance by Lark, represented by Inge Beckmann on vocals and Sean O Tim (Mr Sakitumi) on everything else. They wowed the audience with their rendition of Margaret Singana’s ‘We are Growing’ emphasizing that CTEMF is a proudly South African event. But this wouldn’t be an electronic music festival without the current headliners of the South African electronic music scene bringing down the house. Niskerone warmed up the crowd nicely, but the true showstopper was current SA electronic superstar Haezer, who whipped the packed dancefloor into a frenzy with his signature drop heavy sound.

The festival continued into Sunday with Terrence Pearce and Black Coffee ending it off on a high note. Performances were accompanied by great visuals by Meme and Awewolves, and with only a few sound glitches to report, the festival organizers can pat each other on the back for a job well done.

The V&A Breakwater parking area proved to be an unusual, yet ideal venue. The cement ramp leading to the roof was transformed into a dance pit, with a custom built stage erected in front of the entrance. Fans could brave the pit itself, or stand on either side looking down and still have an uninterrupted view of the action. With the sea behind and the neon Cape Wheel lighting up the background, it couldn’t have been more scenic. Plus the added advantage of being outside is that music lovers didn’t go home smelling like they had spent the evening in a cigar lounge.

The Cape Town Electronic Music Festival is another notch on Cape Town’s belt of successful music events, securing the city’s title as South Africa’s party capital. And with an increasing line-up of international acts gracing our shores, the country is working its way up to becoming an essential stopover on world tours.  Because of this, music festivals are only going to grow bigger and better. I’m sure many fans are already holding their breath at the thought of who’s going to be headlining the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival in 2014.

Sally Fink

The second Cape Town Electronic Music Festival took place 12 – 17 February 2013.

For images of this concert see here. Please feel free to tag yourself.

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