Activities / Western Cape

Live Music in Cape Town

Updated Monday, 18 April 2022

Crammed inside a smoky Cape Town club watching a floppy-haired, skinny jean-wearing indie band prance around on stage, it can be difficult to put your current musical appreciation into its proper historical context. And considering that last round of tequilas at the bar, probably unwise. That said, it can be an interesting trip looking at just how much musical history is concealed beneath the surface of Cape Town’s nightlife.

Music in the Gardens

Music has always been part of Cape Town’s legacy, from the earliest music of the Cape indigenous peoples to the folk music brought by European settlers to the area. During apartheid music played an important role, with African jazz maestros and Afro-pop queens like Brenda Fassi providing the soundtrack for revolution. Anti-apartheid bands such as Bright Blue also provided musical sustenance for many of the student population with songs like “Weeping”, an allegory for the ignorance and brutality of the apartheid system, becoming a rallying cry for white students who stood against the apartheid government.

Like the country, the post-1994 music scene has blossomed. The recent My Coke Fest and the International Jazz Festival, both featuring the cream of local and international talent, are testament to just how far the country has progressed both socially and musically. Unfortunately visits from top international acts are still few and far between, but what we lack in overseas patronage we make up for with a fervently passionate local scene.

The first place that anybody looking for a good live show should visit is Mercury Live., Mercury hosts the best in local rock artists almost every weekend. The likes of Lark, Van Coke Kartel, and Max Normal have all torn the place apart and will no doubt do it again. On the first Saturday of every month Mercury reaches its maximum capacity as Cape Towns best drum and bass DJs take to the stage, for its regular Homegrown paty. The Assembly is a new venue which is fast becoming popular. Equipped for both international and local artists, Assembly only invites the biggest names in all genres of music to grace its stage. Look out for local electro bands such as Sweat X and the Real Estate Agents. Guaranteed to impress.

I Heart Joburg Music Festival

And continuing with the electronic music breakdown, if you like things a little crazier then you cannot pass on one of Cape Town’s legendary trance parties. Already a renowned destination on the worldwide trance map, Cape Town trance is one of the fastest growing scenes in the country. The New Year’s Prism party successfully blended live and electronic and attracted over 7000 party-goers. These parties take place just about every weekend during the summer. Local producers such Nano records and Timecode have carved themselves a niche on the international scene but still give it their all when playing for a home crowd. However it’s the venue which really makes these parties. Whether they’re in a secluded spot on a wine farm, an apple orchard, or some unusual outdoor location, trance parties are a great way to blend partying and the great outdoors.

But if you’re looking to enjoy some music in a slightly more subdued manner, then perhaps visit Zula Bar. Here there is plenty of seating, you can order food, sip on something and watch some of our best jazz artists, acoustic performers and even some of the big up and coming rock acts such as. The Armchair Theatre, is also cosy and slightly more relaxed venue as the name suggests, and has built a name for itself as one of the top live venues in Cape Town.

Music in the Gardens

During summer the Kirstenbosch concerts are a big attraction. Set in the botanical gardens, where you can enjoy a picnic before you enjoy the music, these concerts are incredibly popular so make sure you get your tickets in advance.

But if you’re looking for something truly different, Balkanology is a unique annual musical event featuring music from the Balkans. A combination of performance art and gypsy music this event encourages people to dress up and participate in a strange and surreal gypsy world. It’s even crazier than it sounds!

Music forms a huge part of the Cape Town culture so more than likely you are going to have to choose between events. The best way to go about it is just to keep your ear to the ground, choose the scene that suits you and let the rhythm of the Mother City get you up and moving!

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