With a vast variety of musical acts constantly emerging from the Mother City, it is no secret that Cape Town is home to one of the world’s most electrifying live music scenes. However, this ever-evolving scene would be nothing without its sound engineers cooking up some magic behind the scenes. 

Let’s Get Local took the opportunity to pick the brains of one of Cape Town’s most prominent sound engineers, Barend van der Walt. He shares his journey from being a psychology student in Pretoria, discovering his passion for DJing, his time at the Academy of Sound Engineering (ASE), and making a name for himself in Cape Town.

Psychology student turned sound engineer

Cape Town-based sound engineer, Barend van der Walt, began his production journey while studying at the University of Pretoria. During his first few years as a psychology student, Barend discovered his passion for music production and DJing — a discovery that led to him leaving his studies behind in pursuit of sound engineering. 

Barend van der Walt
Barend with Metro Villa guitarist, Daniel Nuttall, at their show in Cape Town. PHOTO: James Browning

“I studied at a dodgy sound college in Pretoria for a year, and then went to the Academy of Sound Engineering in Johannesburg for two years. I then moved to Cape Town and did another two years at ASE in Cape Town,” Barend shares. 

Even though Barend has a lot of experience in the field and a formal education, he is sure that neither of these things alone is enough to get ahead in this industry. He thinks it should be a balanced hybrid of the two. “The training gives you an understanding of how to do your job, and the experience gives you an understanding of when and why to do it,” he says.

“For instance, knowing how a mixing console works will benefit you in using it efficiently, but you need to apply that knowledge quickly in the real world — and that’s where experience comes in handy,” he continues. 

Full-time sound engineer, part-time DJ, always a master 

Even though DJing sparked his love for music production, Barend now only does this in his free time. A full-time career as a sound engineer leaves him with limited time to carry out his passion for DJing — although he jumps at any DJ gig that suits his jam-packed schedule. 

Barend van der Walt
Barend trained on a Yamaha O1V, Midas M32 and Audient ASP8024 amongst others. PHOTO: James Browning

“I got into DJing back in my Pretoria days through two guys, Zain Ebrahim [Phizicist] and Sean Nel [King Rat],” Barend shares about his start as a DJ. 

A large part of the DJ scene includes coming up with a memorable stage name for yourself. “I then had to select a DJ name for myself and came up with Vexille,” he says.

“I prefer playing drum and bass, but I also play some high-tech minimal. My pseudo DJ name is Steelpak — and that’s just playing golden oldies at SurfaRosa,” Barend tells Let’s Get Local

Life as a Cape Town-based sound engineer 

As all careers do, sound engineering comes with its own set of challenges. Barend, however, takes these challenges in stride and uses them as an opportunity to grow. “Every day is a new challenge, as it should be, but I would say that besides the physical aspect, time is something that all sound engineers need more of,” he shares.

“Everything has to happen on schedule, and it needs to be done correctly the first time. We don’t have time to make mistakes — although we always do — but that’s how we grow and hopefully become better,” Barend adds. 

Barend van der Walt
Barend with band, Metro Villa, preparing for their show at District, Cape Town. PHOTO: James Browning

With the ever-growing Cape Town live music scene, it is nearly impossible for a sound engineer to pinpoint their favourite acts to mix for. Barend, with much difficulty, shared his top five acts that he’s done sound for with Let’s Get Local, namely: 

  • Runaway Nuns
  • Black Lung
  • aKING 
  • Retro Dizzy 
Barend van der Walt
Barend letting the band, Metro Villa, know that the sound is perfect. PHOTO: James Browning

“They always put on a great show, and it’s just a fantastic experience working with these great people,” he says. 

As one of Cape Town’s most prominent sound engineers, working at some of Cape Town’s most iconic live music venues — including District, The House of Machines, The Armchair Theatre, and EVOL — Barend strives to keep working, learning, and growing. 

“I would also like to not carry subwoofers up and down stairs anymore,” he shares laughingly. 

Barend van der Walt
Barend with Josh O’Bree, founder of Foulplay. PHOTO: James Browning

Barend encourages aspiring sound engineers to seize every available opportunity. He suggests finding a sound engineer to shadow and starting to learn from them. “If your heart’s in it, you won’t work a day in your life. It’s late nights, sweaty and sore muscles. It’s love,” he concludes. 


It’s a good thing I’m better at my job than I am at driving. Otherwise, we’d all be in big trouble. On the note of things I enjoy more than driving, the local music scene is very dear to my heart — put me in a crowd in front of a band instead of behind the steering wheel any day of the week.

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