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19 Oct 12

D.J.s Lament Shrinking Electronic Music Scene in Kosovo

Electronic music is giving space to mixed menu in Kosovo, a sign of lesser money flowing around the country but also perhaps of a new more diversity-hungry period. 

Arber Selmani
BIRN Pristina

They remember it as Te Majmunat, though it later became Underclub and then ended up as a carpet shop. It was the place where electronic music was heard every single day of the year.

Along with Spray Club and Megaherc, Te Majmunat was once a club where electronic music didn’t mix with other genres, where names like Toton, Likatek and Dardan Ramabaja first brought the electronic spirit to the capital.

According to Ramabaja, when those clubs were at the height of their popularity, electronic music was at its most pure and people created traditions, not trends.

“At that time, maybe in the 90s, people were crazy about electronic music. Today, people do not follow the tradition, but rather trends. It seems there is a period when we get hot about something, and just as quickly it turns cold,” says Ramabaja, a D.J. since 1999. The main problem, he said, is the lack of clubs where D.J.s play only electronic music.

“Some years ago there were places where only electronic music was released and played, and people knew where to go,” he says.

“Today, many bars and clubs don’t have stability and put all kinds of music in their programs,” says Ramabaja, lamenting the fall of the electronic music scene in recent years.

Irmin Vandermeijden, a D.J from Amsterdam who now lives and makes music in Pristina, says that electronic music in Kosovo rose in popularity at the turn of the millennium, but is now struggling.

“I don't think its dead; but I think it is definitely struggling. As people tell me, its peak was reached during the liberation years in 2001 and 2002 when the situation in Pristina was quite unique. There was a lot of money, first of all, and of course a reason to party. I went to Spray a lot in 2006, a time when many famous D.J.s were still invited there.

“Now it is different, of course. You do notice that it's hard for club managers to attract a crowd, unless D.J.s have a name, and those performers are expensive, of course. There is only a very small core of people that are genuinely following new trends in electronic music,” Irmin said.

Low pay also means some D.J.s are staying away, Vandermeijden explained.

“Club owners have the very strange habit of often not telling you how much they will pay you up front. They make it dependent on how many guests will come, which is also seen as the responsibility of the D.J., somehow. That's not fair. I want to get paid because of the music I play, not because of the number of friends I have on Facebook.”

A few club owners do agree on pay before a show, Vandermeijden acknowledged. “Some are different; they don't pay much but at least its clear from the beginning. All in all, when it comes to money the scene sucks. What can you do.”

Many feel the electronic music scene in Kosovo is still shrinking.

“It hurts, but it’s true. The electronic music scene in Kosovo is very small, or rather non-existent. Even people who once wanted this kind of music are stuck in the musical trends of 2002,” says D.J. Vegim, considered one of the best electronic music performers in Kosovo, with his roots in the 1990s music scene.

According to Vegim, Kosovars can only catch “proper” electronic music in their capital city once every few months.

“We have more space than in 2000-2002, but less electronic music. We have a poor scene,” Vegim lamented.

Meanwhile Fatos Cetta, who is new to the electronic music scene in Kosovo, says the music continues to thrive in the country.

“There is a taste for good music and places where a good atmosphere is created. Also, some of us, the new talents on the scene, have some space to promote ourselves,” Cetta said.

Flekitza Fleki, a well-known D.J. in the capital, says that if there is no enthusiasm for this kind of music in Kosovo, D.J.s have other options.

“Many of our D.J.s are known in the region more than here. By performing in various European cities they are promoting Kosovo`s culture better than anyone else,” says Fleki.

Gentian Rizaj, the manager at Spray Club, says that electronic music remains popular in Kosovo, in part thanks to clubs like Spray.

If you mention the word “club” in Kosovo, you think Spray, he said.

“Spray Club is one of the places that is well known all over the world for its electronic music. It still has the perfect schedule of this music,” says Rizaj. Unfortunately, he added, commercial music now dominates the music market.

“There are some clubs, like Spray, which are not giving up. The quality is very poor, and I'm also sorry to say that people now have different preferences,” Rizaj said.

These days “Spray” is closed and has been converted into something else, a place called “Mjalte” (honey), but Gentian Rizaj, the manager, said that he has plans to open a new club. “It will not be in the same place and it will have another name”, Rizaj adds.

This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.


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