06 June 2014 by Stuart Buchanan

Cape Town for music lovers

South Africa has long been known as a top safari destination, offering unrivalled wildlife encounters. But there’s a lot more to the country, and these days visitors are increasingly interested in exploring our artistic, cultural and musical heritage.

The major cities are where South Africa's diverse cultures collide, and as a result, their music scenes cater for virtually any taste. If it's live performances you're looking for, then clubs, pubs and halls are the spots to uncover local talent.

Cape Town is no different. Within the City Bowl alone, you'll find venues offering jazz, folk, metal, house, hip-hop and blues, to name a few. 

The Crypt is a great venue for hip jazz cats – discretely hidden underneath St George's Cathedral, the acoustics make it an ideal spot for live music. You'll hear young township musicians playing a distinctly African style, legends performing jazz standards, and lots in between. Book a table and enjoy a meal there while you watch.

Jazzy times at The Crypt. Image courtesy of thecryptjazz.com

For something a little edgier, The Assembly on Harrington Street is a favourite for contemporary artists, bands and DJs – anything from rock to rap to dubstep can be heard here. Mercury Live in Oranjezicht is another popular music spot – live music upstairs, and a DJ downstairs.

Things get loud at The Assembly. Image courtesy of Christoph Lenz

Remember that Cape Town is much bigger than the City Bowl, and exploring the Mother City's suburbs, townships and peninsula will expose you to even more of the diversity found here – and you may even stumble upon an impromptu music performance that other tourists never discover.

If you are a serious music fundi, or perhaps just want to take a souvenir home with you, the major music chain stores in South Africa are Look & Listen and Musica, and each one should stock at least some local music. They've even started stocking vinyl again, as it makes its comeback. 

But skip the malls and head to Cape Town favourite Mabu Vinyl, where you can dig through crates of records, CDs and cassettes of just about anything from the well known to the truly obscure. The shop is co-owned by Stephen Segerman, the man who went looking for and eventually found folk music legend Sixto Rodriguez, a story told in the Oscar-winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man.

Mabu Vinyl can be found on Rheede Street in Cape Town. Image courtesy of Mallix

Brand new on the Cape Town scene is Hard Pressed Café, located in the city's newest tallest building, Portside. It's a place that strikes a balance between music shop, coffee shop, and a generally trendy place to hang out and listen to music.

'People want to buy music again,' says cafe director Yaron Wiesenbacher. 'We are looking for the people who are already addicted to buying vinyl, and the people who are about to get addicted to collecting music again. We welcome them in all shapes and sizes.'

Hard Pressed Café director Yaron Wiesenbacher and some of the prized vinyl found here

As a former DJ and music fanatic, Wiesenbacher says that the music scene in Cape Town has a lot to offer. 'Since 2010, we've been getting more of the big international bands performing here, and it's only getting better,' he says, referring to recent concerts by the likes of Skrillex, Rihanna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Eminem and Justin Bieber. 

'In terms of more eclectic music, there are amazing things to discover here. For the club lovers, if you know what you’re doing in Cape Town, it’s unbelievable. If you love trance, you'll find a trance party. If you love deep house, there’s a club in Long Street. Drum 'n bass, garage – there's so many different places. Music lovers are way more educated than our actual market thinks we are.'

Plenty of vinyl to browse, or plenty of space to simply chill

The vinyl on offer at Hard Pressed Café caters to the casual radio listener, with albums from current Top 10 artists like Vampire Weekend and Lana Del Rey, as well as the serious collector looking for classics like Michael Jackson, The Beatles or Led Zeppelin. Put a record on (vinyl players are also available to buy), grab one of the music-themed coffees (with names like the Lennon, the Brenda, or the Wham) and enjoy the vibe – or get chatting to your fellow patrons, who have plenty to say about music!

Coffee. Bowie. Any questions?

Whether you want to hear live music, or buy something for your collection, Cape Town has much to offer. 'We are spoiled for choice here,' says Wiesenbacher. 'In that way, we're not much different to Berlin, Ibiza, or London. The scene isn't as big, but you will find it if you look.'

Category: Arts & Entertainment, Food & Wine

comments powered by Disqus