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Dutch groove takes over Xylem for First Thursdays with Isaiah

As a promoter you’re often required to wear many hats. You have a diverse range of responsibilities and consistently programming captivating line ups is one of the most important. The team behind Xylem embraces this responsibility and has been a driving force in Cape Town’s house and techno scene.

The next edition of the Mødular-based event sees Dutch act, Isaiah, billed as the headliner. Isaiah has quickly grabbed the attention of pundits and punters throughout Europe with his contemporary take on the groove elements for the ‘90s and early 00’s – with a string of releases on labels such as Mutual Rytm, Molekul and RAW. When not DJing or producing, he keeps himself busy as co-founder of labels Frenzy and Vulged.. Labels which have been at the forefront of the Hardgroove renaissance we currently find ourselves in. 

 Isaiah’s approach and sound align perfectly with the ethos of Xylem, the team going as far as saying,” his music has really influenced the direction we’ve taken over the last couple of years, both as promoters and as DJs”. So as has become synonymous with Xylem’s events – expect a night of dance-focused electronic music in Cape Town’s favourite basement. The 5th of  October will also be backed by a sublime selection of local talent with sets from artists such as Nativesound, Joan, Miss P, Cxnzia and many more

Isaiah’s appearance at Xylem is a vivid reflection of the ongoing work of the concept in South Africa’s music community. A community with a growing commitment and flair for innovation that we were able to delve deeper into in our interview with Xylem. Read on!

Artwork for the event of Xylem Isaiah

  • What’s the origin behind the name Xylem? How has your essence evolved since the inception?

When we were starting Xylem we wanted to create a space with a warm, natural and organic feel, using plants and intricate microscopic visuals. We also started off with the simple mission statement of doing our best to showcase quality music at our events. ‘Xylem’ is tissue that transports nutrients in plants, which we felt mirrored our goal of simply bringing music to people and the initial direction we wanted to take at the event. 

  • With several years of experience under your belt…What’s been the most significant takeaway from your journey? Anything that’s shifted your perspective from ravers to organisers?

Although this is a bit cliche – consistency is very important to us, and we believe it has helped us hugely. By pushing a consistent sound at our parties, it means you know what to expect when you walk through the doors. 

Another learning of ours, is that it is important to discover a sound that resonates with the venue where you are hosting your event. By balancing our roles as both DJs and promoters we have been fortunate enough to experiment with diverse music styles in various settings, and we are always trying to learn more about how sound interacts with different spaces. This has become fundamental to our process of selecting a lineup. 

We initially started pushing house music, but now that we are in a different space the focus has shifted more towards techno. Although, these initial influences are still present in the sound we try to showcase. Initially we didn’t really envision ourselves as becoming a techno-oriented party, but the space we have found ourselves in definitely shifted our direction.

As a raver you will enjoy a range of music. However, as organisers we feel that you need to narrow your direction a bit – especially for a club night. In festival settings there is far more room to move around, whereas for a club night you have a few hours to create a memorable evening – so your opener needs to be selected with consideration of what music you are wanting to end off the night with. When we first started running events we didn’t fully understand the value of this. 

  • Isaiah is headlining your upcoming event. What drew you to his unique sound and compelled you to feature him as the main act? Do you believe that groove techno is building the future of the scene?

Our event journey kicked off when we fell in love with house music. Later, when our event moved to Modular Cape Town, we started exploring a harder, faster sound to match the vibe that had been carefully curated by the club, and by well established Cape Town organisers such as Vault, Mass, Database, and Champagne. 

Around this time we stumbled upon Isaiah’s first EP, which immediately caught our attention because of the mix of techno and that energetic old-school house groove. We have been hooked on his music ever since. This is why hosting Isaiah is very special to us – his music has played a very big part in influencing our direction over the last 2 years, both as promoters and as DJ’s. We feel very lucky to be in a position to feature him at our event. 

We are huge advocates for this ‘groove techno’ sound because we feel it is a great gateway into techno – as it was for us. The genre is energetic and light-hearted, and we think this makes it easily approachable to people who are still dipping their toes into this style of music. In this sense, we think it is getting a lot more people invested into the scene. 

  • Welcoming a carefully curated local lineup to your events alongside international artists must hold special significance for Xylem. What does it mean for Xylem to showcase these talents at your events?

It is really great to be able to have this intersection of hosting talented local artists with internationally recognized artists. While we are always working hard to bring down international DJ’s to Cape Town, we also want these DJ’s to leave our country saying positive things about our scene. We have a small scene, but we all take a lot of pride in the artists we have – as promoters we do our best to showcase the best talent in our city. 

  • Looking ahead, what trends and artists do you believe will shape the electronic landscape in Cape Town/South Africa in the coming years?

It’s been really interesting to see the amount of interest taken in DJ’ing since 2020. A lot of new artists have come through and there has been a real sense of positivity amongst younger artists – where a lot of artists are extremely motivated and putting a lot of effort in, in refining their craft. 

We have seen that there is a lot of new interest in hardgroove / groove techno, and just higher bpm music in general. Although, this is probably true for most scenes around the world at the moment. 

As mentioned before, we have a bunch of talent in South Africa. We have the likes of Jed, MVLS, Terminus, Aeska, Justyn Nel, and Kyle Russouw, who have all been pushing and producing some great techno. In terms of house music we also have some exceptional artists in the form of Biodive, Deep Aztec, and Re.dah. There are so many new and exciting young artists coming through, so these are just a handful of the many artists we believe are putting in a lot of effort to push our scene forward. They have all brought a lot of new attention to our scene here. 

We also believe the festival Smalltown Beat is going to play a huge role in shaping the electronic landscape in South Africa. Their production and effort is unmatched when it comes to showcasing the best South Africa has to offer. Their ethos has already contributed greatly to our scene.

  • Lastly, where do you envision Xylem being five years from now?

It’s really tough to say. We have been running Xylem since 2019, and I don’t think we could have guessed that we would be in this position today. Our main focus is to just keep on growing the community surrounding the event, support the local artists in our scene, and do our best to bring down more international talent to Cape Town. We are just going to keep it simple, keep learning, and keep providing consistent grooves each month. 

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