”Written byLiam Girie
“Our focus is to keep it fast, but fun, and thankfully this seems to resonate with people.”
Xylem is a name ever growing in renown within the Cape Town electronic music scene. The heads of the operation have been the steady proprietors of some of the most immaculate dance vibes since they took up residency in Modular’s First-Thursday slot at the end of 2021. With its sterling reputation in mind, it begs no question why Xylem has been invited to this year’s iteration of Smalltown Beat and we could not be more excited for the step from club to festival.
But, as is the case with much of Cape Town’s underground music scene, details on the Xylem collective remain elusive beyond the decks and dancefloors its plays host to. So, in further preparation for the upcoming Smalltown Beat Festival this year, we thought it prudent to shed some light on this event, how it came to be, and the rad personalities behind it.
What is the story behind how Xylem came to be? Are there any people, in particular, you would point out as having been essential to the establishment of your collective?
“In 2019, we decided to start throwing events together, originally kicking things off with our event, BookClub, which we hosted at a space called Hometown in Woodstock. As DJs we had been struggling to get gigs in Cape Town, so we wanted to make sure that we shared this opportunity that we were given with other aspiring DJs and homies who were struggling to break into the Cape Town scene. Soon after we started, we were offered an opportunity by Seb Bosman (Bronson) to be a part of the Tau Relaunch, but at the time we wanted to keep BookClub separate from a club night – so we created Xylem. This provided us with an opportunity to focus on different sounds which were more club orientated, which differed from BookClub at the time.”
“In 2020 we were offered an opportunity to start hosting Xylem at Modular. Unfortunately, we only had one event there before things got funky with COVID. However, we were lucky enough to be trusted by Aidan de Nobrega and Robin Hall from Database to start running Xylem in their 1st Thursday slot at Modular at the end of 2021, as they looked to pivot Database to be on weekends at Modular.”
How would describe yourself as a collective? What are your goals and what motivates you?
“We try to create a sense of community amongst the partygoers – everyone knows each other. It isn’t so much just rocking up to the party and then leaving – there is a level of genuine interaction between people at Xylem. Ultimately, we want to create a ‘warm’ evening where everyone feels seen and comfortable.
As for the three of us – we just really enjoy fast, fun, and groovy music, and we love being able to curate parties where we are sharing what we love with others. We also know how difficult it can be to get started with gigs in Cape Town, so we try to make sure we are always approachable and ready to help someone who is wanting to get involved. We were given some great opportunities, and our goal is to be able to provide some of those opportunities to other artists.”
What would you say are your focus points in contributing to the Cape Town music scene?
“From the get-go, we set out to try and give younger artists a chance to gain exposure to the scene. The ethos of BookClub was to provide a space for aspiring DJs to get time on decks and play to some intimate crowds. As we transitioned into Xylem – we have tried to keep those values central to what we do.
Another focus point lies in making sure the music scene is sustainable for the artists in the scene. We don’t bargain with artists, as we hope this enables artists to be involved in the scene more sustainably. Artists pour hours into their craft, and we feel the least we can do, as promoters, is to value them as much as they value themselves. We hope that this helps set a precedent for other events.”
You guys seem to keep it pretty low-key on social media. How do you attract people to your events? Does word of your events generally travel naturally through word of mouth?
“We have primarily focused on word of mouth over the years. We have such an incredible team of promoters who are truly the life and soul of the event. We are lucky enough to have found a group of people who are as passionate about Xylem as we are, and they make an effort to bring a mate and tell a friend. It is cool to see so many familiar faces at our events, which have been partying with us since 2019. The Database guys also set up 1st Thursday to be a great place at Modular – so this is already a well-established night, thanks to them.”
How would you describe the importance of creating a space for the Cape Town techno scene to flourish?
“It is important to be open to helping someone passionate and keen to contribute to the scene as not everyone has the opportunity to get on some decks to practice and improve their craft. This is where spaces like Hamshack Radio and The Other Radio are so important to our scene, as they are always providing people with opportunities to be involved. So, it is important to support these spaces, as these are platforms for so many DJs in Cape Town, and it is important for promoters to book these DJs to give them more opportunities in Cape Town. We are always trying to get new faces on our lineups.”
What was your first experience of Smalltown Beat like?
“Smalltown Beat served as a big gateway into a whole new world of music we weren’t yet exposed to. We were still in first-year (but over 21 we promise) and had only just started getting familiar with some of the artists playing or heard the different styles of house and techno on display. Come the Sunday I think we were all searching “sick house music” on SoundCloud on the drive home. That sunset set from Palms Trax on the Saturday was also a huge highlight! (Fin napped through the first half and still has regrets.)”
With Smalltown Beat around the corner, we’re super excited to see what you will be bringing to the party. Can you give us a teaser of what to expect?
In 5 words: Grooves to make you move.
The Smalltown Team also said there was a surprise that rhymed with “international”?”
Do you have anything to say to the folk out there still on the fence about whether or not they’ll be attending Smalltown Beat this year?
“It is a one-of-a-kind festival in South Africa. They truly create a unique experience for everyone with their attention to detail, production, and great music. The team has found such a great balance between creating intimate and grand moments at their festival – but it really needs to be experienced to be fully understood.
We haven’t heard of anyone regretting going so far – so why would you?”
We’d love to give a huge shoutout to the team behind Xylem for their an epic interview and for the enthusiasm behind their answers. It has been a pleasure getting to know them better and to document their role within the local electronic music circuit. It appears clear that the passion behind what they do burns deep