The Cogs of an Electro Festivalby Themba Kriger / 02.04.2012
Arriving home after a ten minute drive from a festival, smelling no worse than after a night at your favourite night club, is a novel experience; but then again the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (CTEMF) isn’t your normal festival. Apart from its urban setting, it is, in the organisers’ words, a “celebration of a scene coming of age. It marks the point at which the Electronic Music Scene in South Africa has been recognized by itself and beyond as an industry that has reached the state of being self-sustainable”. Short version: Those outside the trinity of house, trance and drum ‘n bass are able to quit their day jobs and make a living off the ‘scene’. Cape Town is arguably the birthplace of the alternative electronic scene, so keeping CTEMF within city limits is as much a tribute to the host of this scene as it is a convenient alternative to nearby wine farms.
Being based in the city has allowed the organisers of CTEMF to explore different promotional avenues leading up to the festival. Richer and fuller than your traditional three day bash in the country. So called fringe events, which saw established Cape Town parties such as See You Next Wednesday and Cold Turkey featuring a selection of CTEMF artists, were held in the month leading up to the festival. A further initiative was the CTEMF Open End electronic music industry workshops hosted at the Red Bull Studios. These workshops, free to attend, gave insight into the workings of the local electronic music industry.
Spread over three days, each with its own particular focus, discussions between insiders and experts were followed by a Q&A from the attendees. Although such sessions are not new to the Red Bull Studios, having played host to many giants of the industry, this is the first time the scope has been this extensive. Covering the music industry landscape, earning a living in music and modern music media, the workshops were packed fully of producers, DJs, bloggers, promoters, managers and the just plain interested, all buzzing on a combination of complimentary Red Bull and an eagerness to learn.
The session featuring Sibot and Markus Wormstorm, a reunion of sorts between two of the countries’ most innovative producers, was a personal favourite. Jumping between reminiscent story-telling and playing a selection of tracks from their various projects that showcased their sound and growth over the years, it was interesting to hear their progression over the years. What was perhaps surprising, but an important point for budding producers to note, is that despite their success both locally and overseas, they earn their bread and butter through sound design. The highlight of this workshop, though, was an impromptu jam session, featuring Sibot scratching headphone feedback and Markus busting out beats on his old 808. For a moment, the Real Estate Agents were back.
Judging solely by attendance, the workshops were a huge success, however their real value will only be felt once the ideas and lessons are put into practice. It wasn’t all perfect though, as they ran out of cold Red Bulls towards the end of the second day, leaving Taurine addicts like yours truly crashing hard. CTEMF is a showcase of the established as well new talent in the electronic scene and these workshop tie in with their commitment to help new artists in establishing a viable career. While its urban setting is certainly unique in the local electronic festival calendar, what truly sets it apart from the rest is a focus on more than just ticket sales, but also the development and growth of the electronic scene in general. The workshops have set an important precedent and made an invaluable contribution.
If the workshops were an investment in the future, then the weekend was reserved for celebrating the now. The roof of the Breakwater parking lot at the V&A Waterfront made for the perfect venue.The main deck, home of the bars and food tent, views of the ocean, mountain and stage, located on the ramp connecting the floor below. This setup gave a great birds’ eye view of the dance floor, but also a great view of the stage from the dance floor. The line-up was packed with some of the biggest names in the Cape Town scene. With acts spread across three days, one hurdle which organisers will have to overcome in the future (possible with the offer of free breakfast) is the morning lethargy of Capetonians. Whereas traditional festivals force you to the stages thanks to a lack of shade and drink near the camp sites, the urban festival goer has the comforts of their own bed in which to sleep off the hangover.Being a virgin event means that inevitably some awkward fumbling is bound to occur, but this and the primary focus on electronic music means that comparison with other festivals is pointless. What is important is that this focus is a first amongst local festivals that establishes an avenue for the electronic music scene to showcase what it has to offer.
*All images © Themba Kriger