Summer in Johannesburg is an underrated thing.
While waves of holiday-makers prepare to make their way to the coast, the energy in the city often rises proportionally. A few big changes this year, though, threaten to upset this yearly ritual by both tempting revellers to stick it out and adding left field variety to the December landscape. These changes come in the form of two festivals sitting in some ways on opposite ends of the spectrum, at least in scale and musical profile-making: the much-written-about international uber-fest AFROPUNK, and Johannesburg’s best boutique ‘festival’, the ultra-local Churn, happening on the weekend of the 2nd of December.
Over it’s 3 previous occasions, Churn has grown a reputation – with those in the know about the independent, leading edge beats and dance music landscape – as a party large enough in ambition and musical variety to keep feet moving over its 24+ hour constant running time, but one that’s small enough in scale to feel like an intimate gathering of locals. It’s an ambitious family affair, and everyone is welcome.
Its line-ups have always dug deep into the city’s active DJ circuit (adding well-picked foreign headliners to punctuate proceedings), and its location always only a half hour or so away from the CBD at the Tweefontein Melkery on the rural fringes of Kempton Park, enhancing its homegrown feeling.
This year though, on their fourth iteration, things have been taken up a level by moving the event to a summer December date for the first time, and announcing that the festival’s headliners (as well as the supporting acts) will be all-local as well – with Esa Williams and Nozinja holding down the peak slots.
SA-born DJ and producer Esa has been on the rise of late, after spending years putting in good work in Glasgow’s dance music scene and performing extensively with influential acts like Auntie Flo. Since then, music – and especially music from parts of the world normally outside of contemporary dance trends – has enveloped his life, seeing him launch learning programs in Kenya, Uganda and Cuba and starting the net label Remomory, all while still producing his own music. A recent new wave of excitement around Esa swelled with the release of this latest EP, Aweh, on Dutch tastemaker label Dekmantel and his proceeding DJ set at their flagship festival in August. What he’s bringing to Churn, though, promises to be even more special – a live performance using various drum machines and collected instruments.
The second headliner, Richard “Nozinja” Mtwetwa, burst onto international electronic scenes and touring circuits as a pioneer of the impossibly fast Shangaan Electro style. The South African Shangaan influence was not only from a world outside of Western dance music when Nozinja first debuted, but was one that also received little recognition even in SA’s major cities. It was through a set of self-produced YouTube videos that Nozinja reached a global audience and his eventually becoming label mates with the likes of Kelela and Aphex Twin with a release on the legendary Warp Records in, led by single ‘Tsekeleke’.
The line-up is rounded off by a stellar list of local DJs, producers and performers who represent a cross-section of the most relevant styles one would want to hear on a night out in Joburg, including members of some of the most prominent promoters. Pussy Party’s Rosie Parade and Phatstoki (who is fast approaching my personal top 5) joining BeatNN’s Yanoss and Lunch, while indie label Subterranean Wavelength are represented by Pretoria’s John Casey and Kwaitour co-founder Paul Waxon (full feature: Wax On: Curating Warmth and Dismantling Aggression Through Vinyl) will be spinning on the night too. This list as far from exhaustive, but gives an indication of how well thought out and far reaching bookings for the event has been.
The event opens on Saturday, with an afternoon session in the shade next to the Tweefontein dam. At sunset, there will be a smooth transition over to a deep dive into the barn for the whole night. As the first light comes, the moves shift outside onto the stoep for an indulgent cool-out.
All info and posts about the various artists on the lineup available here.
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