Honouring a Mother City mainstay

“I’m heading to the cricket at like five to try beat the traffic, then playing a set at this basement party,” says Alvhin Adendorff, otherwise known as The Alvhinator, in a manner so matter-of-fact you’d think cricket and basement parties share more fans than one might expect.

Adendorff runs one of Cape Town’s longest-running weekly club nights, Uppercut, a hip-hop party based at the Waiting Room that’s attracted demographically varied crowds for close to eight years. The varied profile of the attendees would baffle most marketers, especially in a city that’s been built to reinforce customer groupings.

It’s a party that stands proudly within, yet simultaneously adjacent to, its city’s musical and social landscapes. The resident DJs and promoters have nurtured their community so much that it would be glaringly obvious to leave them off the bill of the upcoming Cape Town Electronic Music Festival, which aims to reflect and showcase the musical landscapes of the fractured city.

The festival began as a labour of love for a set of DJs and promoters with years of experience on the local scene. At the time it seemed something of a foregone conclusion that this type of event would happen — it had been years since the Red Bull-sponsored “electro stages” began popping up at otherwise rock-oriented parties.

Confounding every stereotype, the festival has gone on to become a movement that puts inclusion and progress at the heart of its mission statement.

The festival proper is preceded by a set of workshops with the artists booked to perform at the Red Bull Studios in the city centre and Guga S’thebe in Langa — two sides of the city rarely connected by a joint musical forum like this. The line-up is similarly far-reaching, with German techno heavyweights Âme set to feature alongside local hip-hop stalwarts like the Uppercut team.

Whereas large-scale events like the festival need to take a more deliberate approach to building crowds from across its city’s varied spheres, the Uppercut team has been able to take a more organic approach.

“It’s not like we made the party this way. We initially started the party for our friends, and our friends are demographically mixed … and I think that’s had a knock-on effect,” says Adendorff.

The party is organised as a series of themed nights: Golden and
New Era nights focus on the past
and present of hip-hop respectively, while the Button Bashers events eschew the traditional event format entirely. DJs play as usual but when midnight strikes, a competition takes centre stage — four artists, who were each given the same raw musical material and a week to transform it, perform their renditions to a hungry crowd.

“The entire night is their event. We collaborate on choosing DJs, they run the battle themselves and we split the night right down the middle in terms of finances. They needed a home, and we were kinda focused on the same audience and the same goals in terms of pushing local producers,” says Adendorff proudly.

The party acts as a feeder for the hip-hop and electronic scene. It’s not the only link between the two worlds they occupy, though — as the booking of the Uppercut DJs at the festival attests.

“What I’d like to show in the performance is that hip-hop is electric,” says Adendorff. “I feel like a lot of people have a misconception about that. At its very core, it’s electronic. It comes from the generation of sampling and using gear, using turntables. What we’d like to play is a set with a hip-hop backbone but sounds like what people consider to be electronic.”

With his past life as a wedding DJ, Adendorff is used to juggling moods and styles — a trait that’s kept Uppercut vibrant and cultishly revered.

The skill of balancing music one believes in along with a sprinkling of singalong hits is a large part of Uppercut’s success, along with the depth of the team itself. The current core team of Adendorff, DJ Nasty Ed, visual artist Fiancé Knowles and host Methabolism is amplified by a bench of rotating collaborators.

Uppercut will be joined by a laundry list of local and international names over the festival’s three days, including Los Angeles’s Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butter Wolf, the United Kingdom’s Coldcut, heavy-hitter YoungstaCPT, newcomer K-$, Zaki Ibrahim, Moonchild, Kid Fonque, Dark Swano and Hessien+.

The Cape Town Electronic Music Festival takes place at the Cape Town City Hall from February 7 to 12. Catch Uppercut on Saturday February 11 at 5.30pm. Tickets are available at ctemf.com

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