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Cape Town plugs in to avant garde dance music

By Yumna Mohammed

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Famous for decades for its jazz scene, Cape Town is starting to stand out for its electronic music as lovers of the aural avant-garde establish the southern tip of Africa as a centre of innovation, pushing the boundaries of popular sound.

Building on a foundation of electronic African genres such as Kwaito and Kuduro but accentuating them with an international flavor, hundreds of DJs have put down roots in the city, boosting its reputation as an upstart rival to established urban music hotbeds London, Berlin and New York.

The scene's big annual party - the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (CTEMF) - is now in its third year. Last week, it drew thousands of enthusiasts and DJs from around the world keen to soak up the sounds in the African summer sunshine and under the watchful gaze of Table Mountain.

"I came for the acts," 21-year-old local television student Khosi Khumalo said. "The organizers always go above and beyond to get unique acts so it's not like any other festival. Electronic music is upbeat and gets you going. As South Africans, we appreciate music we can move to."

The diverse crowd of partygoers spent three days dancing to the other-worldly tunes of local and international pioneers in the electronic music industry in the city's historic main square, Grand Parade and railway station.

"Cape Town's electronic music scene is very diverse," said 30-year-old Londoner Paul Gunaratnam, a former DJ and electronic music aficionado. "It has an eclectic instrumental sound that is different to anything I've heard."

Festival organizer Duncan Ringrose, who has been a part of the Cape Town electronic music scene for 15 years, believes the event stands out because it is about innovation and sophistication as much as having a party.

"We've always had the short end of the cultural stick because we're perceived as ravers, but people are starting to see the festival for its intentions. You need to look at it holistically. This is something that can sustain people and can give them vision and hope."

(Reporting by Yumna Mohammed; Editing by Ed Cropley, Michael Roddy and Mark Heinrich)

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