With everything to do in Cape Town, you could be forgiven for wanting to take a little while to sit back, sip on a Mojito cocktail, and relax to some of the unique sounds of Cape Town's music. As well as being home to a wide variety of South African cultures, the city is also home to its own particular brand of music - goema, or goema jazz. Based on a wooden, barrel-shaped Malaysian drum set known as a ghomma, the style evolved into a unique brand of music that became identified as Cape Town's 'goema'.

Cape Jazz

Previously identified as 'Cape Jazz', the music of Cape Town sounds similar to the popular jazz style of marabi, a fast-paced keyboard style known for its energy and the ability to get people dancing in local bars or shebeens! Cape Jazz became more improvisational than marabi, however, in large part due to the celebratory culture of Cape Town. A large part of the improvisational structure evolved from the situations the music would be played in - often street parades, where being able to improvise or extend a piece of music or song would be of tremendous help to an aspiring musician! The style also developed around the instruments used, as the players became accustomed to instruments that could be carried by hand, such as brass instruments, banjos, guitars and, of course, ghomma drums.

The Goema Captains

One of the most famous bands of Cape Town, the Goema Captains featured famous jazz musician Mac McKenzie, Alex van Heerden, and Hilton Schilder, who took a different direction by rearranging traditional songs with the important improvisational elements of goema. Another example is The Cape Jazz Band, an ensemble drawing all of its members from different groups playing in Cape Town.

Where to Go

If you're looking to investigate Cape Town's live music scene, you can't do better than a few of the venues nestled right in the heart of the city. 'Mercury' has long been the favourite haunt of most of the top South African Bands playing in Cape Town. It is divided into a downstairs lounge and an upstairs section, 'Mercury Live', boasting one of the best sound systems in the city, as well as a spacious stage and standing area. For those looking for a little more variety than simply music, the 'Zula Sound Bar' offers a diverse range of music including hip-hop, rock, traditional African, reggae, and goema, as well as live comedy on occasion. Situated in Long Street, it sits in the heart of Cape Town's nightlife and provides a full menu, along with tables on a balcony affording great views of the bustling city.

Whether it's a short visit to Cape Town, or a longer exploration of all the city has to offer, music is an unavoidable part of the urban landscape. With the reintroduction of several traditional songs to the popular repertoire of goema music, it's also becoming a new way of discovering the city's cultural history. Give goema a go, and you never know - you may find yourself unexpectedly tapping a foot along to the beat.