Music Exchange: Electronic dance music makers take over a CT landmark

Music Exchange: Electronic dance music makers take over a CT landmark
By Martin Myers

By Martin Myers

Something that has always been big in Cape Town is the EDM (electronic dance music) scene, but it’s rarely talked about in the media.
The pioneers were the late Clyde Finlayson (of Vortex fame) and Tsvadar, Matthew and Jonathan (of Pharcyde). And who can forget Peter White and Mother Productions? Together with a band of merry people, they set up parties in the early 1990s, when South Africa became a democracy – the kind still talked about today.

The Rand was strong, the vibe was good, and South Africa was a great place for internationals to tour. The Three Arts Theatre was the venue of choice, never mind The Dock Road Theatre, the Three Gables (in Stellenbosch), Milnerton Race course, and a plethora of venues in the CBD that have all since vanished – including the Culemborg marshalling yards and the various farms and river beds for the outdoor gigs (that generally went from 10pm to 10am the next day), with each peaking just before sunrise.
The DJs used Technics SL1200 turntables, sometimes standing on bricks to stop the low frequency hum. Names such as Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold, along with Carl Cox and Paul van Dyk, did amazing sets – some three hours long, always starting round 1am. And the Cape Town hero was Gavin Fitchie, and sometimes Derek “The Bandit” Richardson (although he might have been too mainstream for most devotees). The point remains: EDM ruled supreme.

So for the new events, like the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (CTEMF) that takes place this weekend in the City Hall over three days, the foundation was laid many years ago. Attendees can expect a big party with lots of music styles to choose from. The City Hall, with its majestic auditorium and grand organ will be made into a space for modern electronic music to claim, if only for a few debauched hours. It has a variety of spaces and atmospheric old corridors, and you have the freedom to move around and have a unique music experience.
CTEMF has a compromise-free line-up and that is what makes them stand out. A consistently up-to-date and wide-ranging booking policy will give anyone who attends CTEMF access to a rich variety of DJs and live acts.

You will always encounter something new, and the equally diverse crowd reflects this mixture of experimental and floor-filling music.
Acts this year include Like Goldie, Rolando, Vinny Da Vinci, DJ Superfly and Nightmares On Wax. Production standards are en-par with any overseas event you may be fortunate enough to spend your hard-earned ZA Rand on.

The festival is also a showcase of Cape Town’s best visual jockeys (or VJs), who add their own visual interpretation of the music into the equation.
Some of you might be thinking, “What is all the fuss around EDM about?”
By the early 2010s the term “electronic dance music” and the initial ‘EDM’ term was being pushed by the North American music industry music press, in what was largely an effort to re-brand US rave culture. In the UK, electronic music, or dance, are more common terms for EDM today. In this context EDM does not refer to a specific genre, but serves as an umbrella term for all electronic genres (including techno, house, trance, drum and bass and their respective subgenres).

However, over time, EDM has also come to reference a style or genre of highly commercial dance music that is made and played by mainstream artists like Hartwell, W&W, Afrojack, Zedd, and this is precisely why CTEMF prefers the term ‘electronic music’, because their booking policy generally favours less mainstream, and more leftfield artists.
Electronic music is, by definition, created and modified with electronic instruments (think drum machines, synthesizers and computers). Given that this genre lays at the intersection of music and technology, it informs change and evolves rapidly. CTEMF strives to curate and align the best of these new styles, bringing disparate sounds and scenes together, under the one roof.
You are cordially invited by the organisers to open your mind.
So there you have it – check it out this weekend, for 72 hours, at the City Hall.
It should be a proper jol.