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Not another Electronic Music Festival

by Atiyyah Khan / 27.03.2012

It can be argued that Cape Town is the epicentre of South African electronic music. With an established presence at festivals like Rocking the Daisies, Synergy, Earthdance and Resonance – does Cape Town really need another electronic music festival?

Organisers Duncan Ringrose and Jake Lipman (both from sSHADOWORKSs) and Dave Ireton (Cape Town Alive), are well prepared to answer this. For one, there aren’t any festivals dedicated solely to showcasing South African electronic music – that is, shifting the focus of going to watch electronic music not as an after-party option but as the main event, itself. Second, this is not another three-day festival located on an obscure wine farm, far away, but rather rooted right in the heart of the city with the goal of educating, showcasing and building support for electronic music.

Ringrose, a 10 year SA music industry veteran, brother of Sibot and at various times involved with Markus Wormstorm, Max Normal et al, came up with the idea a few years back, but the time was never right. “We had been working with artists and doing events for years. Fast track to about five years ago, when I went to Sonar in Barcelona with the Real Estate Agents and really got to see a fully-fledged urban festival. We got insight into how the festival is backed by the city.” The idea for CTEMF was to create a similar environment to Sonar, where the entire city is involved in the functioning of the festival.

CTEMF - Niskerone

Last September, Ringrose met with Ireton, and things were finally set in motion. Drawing inspiration from The Detroit Electronic Music Festival and Sonar, the plan to showcase the unique culture of electronic music production in Cape Town was born and presented to provincial government.

“We used Sonar and Detroit as a case study where the government completely backs them because of the tourism aspect.” Ireton explains. “When we spoke to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, it was more to show them the potential for what it could be. Surprisingly, they actually mentioned that they’ve been wanting to do something focused on electronic music.”

Ringrose, who curates the line-up for the Red Bull stages at Rocking the Daisies and Oppikoppi says, “Daisies and Oppikoppi are the biggest platforms to grow this scene. Now we’re putting it on the map, to say this is here and it is here to stay.”

The idea of a three day urban music festival is only rivalled by the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which coincidentally falls on the same weekend. “Finding a date was important. In March, every weekend there’s always stuff happening. The Jazz festival dominates but it’s left of centre from what our core focus is about.”

The long term goal is to work together with the jazz festival to create a larger Cape Town Music Week.

CTEMF - Black Coffee

“The idea of a Cape Town urban festival is not new, but it’s finally being done.” Says Ringrose. “We sent the city our proposals and everyone was really receptive. The whole idea is to let them watch us roll this out and if they like what they see, then we go further. That’s the same idea with Cape Town tourism. We’re taking a jump with this.”

For a long time, Cape Town has been the breeding ground for a huge portion of South African electronic producers. A healthy circuit of weekly club events, local festivals, the fact that Bush Radio has had the longest running drum ‘n bass show in the country and that Dubstep really took off in Cape Town – are all factors supporting the festival.

CTEMF - Felix Laband

“I think Cape Town is a more fertile breeding ground.” Says Ringrose. “But if you look at 206 in Joburg, it was a real cocoon for stuff. African Dope started at the same time. What happens in Cape Town is you have geography on your side… and atmosphere. So in Joburg people live further apart, whereas in Cape Town, you bump into people regularly every afternoon and the rate of growth is high because people make contact more often. This is just from one side of the electronic scene. House music is altogether different.” And here Ringrose is right. Many Cape Town producers seem more interested in building their local fan base with a steady stream of gigs, than reaching for SAMAs or regular radio play. The fact that the Red Bull Studio us based in Cape Town, has added another level of encouragement for budding producers.

Once a date was agreed upon, finding the perfect space was key. It had to be in the city and the rooftop of the Breakwater Parking Garage at the V&A was chosen as the ideal space, with the Waterfront partnering up with the festival. “We feel the scene is ready to be taken seriously and through the process of doing this festival, actually it is ready.” Ringrose says. Hellfire is responsible for the sound, with the Redbull Sound System used for support. The organisers are expecting 1500 attendees per day. As with Sonar, high quality all round production is key and the visual element is very important too. LED screens will add to the texture and mood, and most DJs will be accompanied by their own VJs.


According to Ringrose, the line-up was the most agonised over element of the festival. Heavyweights like Warrick Sony aka The Kalahari Surfers, Felix Laband and Markus Wormstorm play earlier than younger groups like P.H.Fat. “We take it really seriously and obviously you can’t please everyone. It’s based on flow. We view it as a mixed CD. The music starts somewhere and then it ends up somewhere else. The flow is going to be like a slinky down a staircase from one artist to another. It has to make sense. We want people to listen to the recordings of the entire day as one long CD.” He explains. A Beatport chart featuring some of the artists at the festival has just been released. Listen here.

While the festival aims to lure international artists in the future, for the first year, it was important to keep it local. There is more to the festival than just the performances. For the build-up, a series of fringe events were held all over the city, including activations at Mzoli’s in Gugulethu and at one of the fastest growing Sunday events in the country, Cold Turkey, at Amadodas.

CTEMF - Mr Sakitumi and The Grrl

From today to Thursday, this week, there will be a range of sessions held at the Red Bull Music Studio with speakers discussing the business of the South African electronic music industry. These include talks by Black Coffee speaking about the evolution of the SA house music scene, and Markus Wormstorm and Sibot discussing the origins of glitch in SA. Check out the full details of workshops here.

As for pricing, Ringrose says, “It’s our first year so we wanted to make it an affordable option.” Early bird tickets are R200 for the entire weekend and R100 per day. The festival is strictly no-under 18’s. Public transport and MyCity info routes are on the website .

*The Cape Town Electronic Music festival runs from 30 March – 1 April at the Breakwater Garage Rooftop at the V&A Waterfront. For more info check out the website here.

CTEMF - Das Kapital

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