Born out of a love of electronic music, CTEMF is doing it for the culture

Photography supplied by CTEMF

The 6th edition of the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival kicks off at the end of the work week. Friday 10th to Sunday 12th February 2017 sees the Cape Town City Hall transformed into a decadent nightclub space. More than just a turn up, this sacred space becomes something of a place of worship  for lovers of electronic music, and CTEMF must be commended for pushing the culture and educating us for close to a decade now. 

Established in 2012 as a platform for South Africa's burgeoning electronic music culture and industry, CTEMF has gained international recognition for being one the the most relevant and forward-thinking event on Africa's music festival calendar.

“Our first festival came at a time where we felt electronic music had the legs to stand on its own two feet,” says Jake Lipman, one of the four partners who originally started the event back when the misunderstood genre was something of a sideshow to bands taking up centre stage. “It was a completely different world to where we’re living now, where electronic music is widespread and in some guises mainstream.”

We spoke to Jake and his CTEMF partner Dave Ireton to find out where they've come from and what we can expect next. 

Talk about the venue, and what hosting at the City Hall brings to the party?

Jake: The Cape Town City Hall is actually our third venue since we began the festival, and its many rooms, central locations, cultural and historical significance and architectural beauty are all major assets and gifts to be able to complement CTEMF.

Logistically, what goes into producing a show of this scale?

Jake: Many, many months of meticulous planning, budgeting, scheming, consulting, double checking, triple checking, investigating, signing, inspecting, negotiating, mailing, calling and all the other unglamourous stuff that makes the front end look slick and polished.

Talk about the workshops and fringe events that happen around the city, and why it’s important to have these satellite events?

Jake: Although we hope to continue the fringe events in the coming years, these took a backseat this year in favour of really focusing on the core festival and workshops. The workshops are as important for us as the core festival and we are looking to build a legacy and empower those around us as opposed to just “throwing a big party”. We won’t be around forever, and even in the present there are always different and important perspective to share and build on from the really interactive and informative panels we curate.

David: This year we took a big step with our satellite events and are collaborating with Truth in Johannesburg who will be hosting our sister festival called CTEMF Connect JHB, which will see many of the headliners and Cape-based acts perform over two nights.

Of all the different acts that you've brought into the country over the years, who have the highlights been?

Jake: Personal highlights for me have been Octave One, Slugabed, Nightmares on Wax, Four Tet and The Original Jazzy Jay.

David: My top three favorite acts over the years have been Dixon, Octave One and Boris Brecher.

Apart from providing international acts for local fans, what does the platform do for local artists who play CTEMF?

Jake: We’re incredibly lucky that the public has started to view CTEMF as a key festival. I think our intentions are pure and focused. We really do this for the love of music and for the musicians and DJs and people who put so much into it. I think this intention is echoed for the artists who play on our stage, and they always bring out really special stuff and their true level of artistry.

How do you decide on which acts to bring in?

Dave: The team sits around and puts forward ideas. Then we put feelers out and see whether those artists are keen on a tour to SA. Once we have a short list it comes down to weighing up the options on the table.

Jake: Non-locally, we agonise to be honest! There is such a wealth of incredible talent around the world. It’s always a very fine line of trying to make people happy, while still staying true to our core values as music lovers. Sometimes we make selfish decisions when booking internationals, but we always make sure those benefit everyone else too. We also don’t have an endless pool of money, so it’s always a chess game.

And then who should we be excited about this year and why?

Jake: This is a question we get asked every year. We’ve got such a wide array of acts – we pinpoint some and others absolutely shine. We are not a festival that books “filler acts”, watch out for everyone - everyone brings something unique! Plan your time wisely!

David: I'm most excited to see Mateo!, Jullian Gomes and Âme - purely because I play their music regularly. I'm also really excited to watch Heidi close the outside area on Saturday, her sets are magic.

So how is CTEMF different to other music festivals?

Jake: We look at the electronic music landscape as holistically as possible. The workshop period as well as other CTEMF Connect events dotted throughout the year look to continue the legacy of the rich culture of unique electronic music in South Africa. Also, and take this how you will, the organisation is born out of electronic music, it’s not something we added on like other festivals, it’s not something that we have done because it’s popular. It’s a culture we have been and continue to be first-person observers and admirers.

David: The CTEMF workshops are a big investment back into the scene and industry. The workshops give everyone the chance to learn something and get a glimpse into the world behind the stage. This is a prominent part of the festival and our vision for the entire experience.