Romania: The Fertile Ground for Underground Scene
- Published on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 11:07
There’s a certain aura that surrounds the electronic music scene of Romania, which has met an unseen development compared to other countries. From humble artists that like their profile as low-key as possible, to parties and after-parties that go on around the clock for days, crowds with an insatiable thirst for high quality events — the Romanians started from scratch the design of their underground scene, more than 20 years ago, with an outcome that acknowledged the interest of the whole world.
The political background and the social context had a lot to do with the start of this current. During communism, finding artwork from any genre of music was a real quest, the access to information being severely controlled and limited back then. Since the forbidden is always desired, the challenge only spiced things up for the ones passionate about music. In the long-term, it made them explore the unknown without being restrained by trends, patterns or following some induced rules. They had freedom and infinite possibilities, something that determined them to develop their own vision without much influence from the outside world, and eventually to come up with something unique.
After communism’s alienation, things slowly started to unfurl. Around ’95, like-minded people started small gatherings, the first ones having crowds of less than 50 people, while young talents like Rhadoo were practicing at the decks. At the turn of the century, the legendary La Mania parties were happening on the Black Sea coast, marking a milestone for what was coming up next. Clubs started to open, such as Zebra or Kristal Club which allowed people with similar interests to meet and organically develop their relationships with the music. Raresh and PetreInspirescu joined this path, and it was not long until their friendship and love affair with music brought them together. Sunrise Booking Agency started as a necessity soon afterwards in 2005. This brought the trio together, and acknowledged Romania as a breeding ground for talented DJs and producers. One year later [a:rpia:r] started their own imprint and got gigs outside Romania, despite the fact that the music they were playing was so different to the style the foreigners had in their vinyl bags.
The year of 2007 represents another milestone. The first Sunwaves Festival took place, and it’s needless to mention its weight in supporting the scene. Also Club Midi opened, the first location in Transylvania exclusively for electronic music, instantly receiving international recognition for the price they put on quality and their spaceship-like venue. Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca emerged as the most homogenous cities around the country that deep-rooted this movement, most of the young talents moving in as these hotspots grew further. In the last 5 years, the evolution reached a higher-pace, with more and more talented people joining the crew. There is a serious love for vinyl, labels and strong brands that have made a name for themselves, be they clubs (Guesthouse) or festivals (Mioritmic, Casino Sinaia, SNRS48, Waha).
The scene in Romania is definitely passion-orientated, paying special attention to local talents and audiences rather than courting international renown. Club owners are focusing a bit more on the whole experience and the special moments they get to live when creating a line-up, instead of the business side. Even when it comes to big events, the promoting is not flaunted, leaving the followers to gravitate themselves towards the happening.
Cluj-Napoca is probably one of the most welcoming destination in Romania, mainly due to the positive energy of the people and the committed organisers. The main promoters make sure to deliver high-quality events and settings, following quality over quantity principle; usually there’s one main party every weekend, but it’s so good that it’s enough. The main promoter - Club Midi –is active during autumn, winter and spring, with Mioritmic festival being their highlight in October; while Alandala organises parties mostly during summertime, making the most of some spectacular venues around the city.
On the other side, Bucharest is restless: you can go out every day of the week and attend proper parties; it’s no wonder why with so many DJ’s living there. During the week Misbits, MadPiano or Control Club are places you shouldn’t miss, but keep in mind to save some energy for the weekend. No matter if you choose to go out at Guesthouse, Eden or Kristal Club, these places run usually for more than just a night. It’s not a surprise to find Guesthouse open on a Monday. People found their place, and they let themselves be carried by it, wherever it takes them. There’s nothing forced about it, everything flows very naturally, just like the common thing that brings these people together: the music.
In the last few years, the so-called “Romanian sound” phrase was overused when referring to any outcome of the Romanian producers, but its relevance seems to be more like a plate of nationality, since the sound can hardly be defined like this. If you check the quality, variety of the two styles and approaches and the amount of electronic music exported by Romanian producers, you’ll discover differences and diversity. They’re being very exploitative rather than limiting their musical diet to a single genre. They’re split into countless sub-genres, and you’ll notice that they're very dissimilar one from another.
The most renowned producers coming from Romania developed individualistic experimentation, each and every notable one wearing a personal signature you can’t match. Just to mention a few, take a look at PetreInspirescu, G76, SIT(Vlad Caia b2b Cristi Cons), Barac, Zefzeed, Cezar, Livio&Roby or Suciu - they are anything but similar. From the second you start playing a track, you’re soaked in a story with a driving bassline, clean cuts and strong attitude - each of them wearing their personal trademark. At first it seems harmless; only later do you realize what you've gotten into. They’ll get you travelling just to see them playing.
With this organic evolution of the movement in the last 20 years, it’s not surprising that it became appealing to many youngsters to get involved and create something on their own. The number of those who test their skills is growing constantly; but only when an artistic vision, commitment and technical abilities are all present something distinctive will turn out. Authentically learning the mathematical patterns of music and creating tracks from scratch has never failed from being the best recipe of a masterpiece. No matter how many shortcuts there are nowadays, the ones who avoid them make their way to the top. It’s a pleasure to see Romania has a handful of producers that still think this way. This goes hand in hand with their low-key profile policy, by keeping a sort of mystery regarding themselves and their work, from tons of unreleased artworks to limited vinyl runs and the very rare interviews.
Romania has one of the most dazzling night lives, with lush soundscapes and visuals that anchor your mind with ease. From festivals to clubs, the video-mapping is one of the highlights of a night: accentuated and ambiguous — they make out of a record more than the sum of its parts, sounding richer and more nuanced the more you lose yourself in the panorama in front of your eyes. The parties go for days; the idea of playing long sets fuses with the DJs desire to express their vision: there’s no rush. Starting from its inherited natural locations, you’ll have one of your best party experiences in Romania due to the fusion between organizers, line-up, visuals and friendly people.
With a growing interest from people based outside Romania, it’s a pleasure to see how the scene managed to maintain an intimate and welcoming vibe rarely found nowadays, and an up-for-it crowd, in a restless search of the track-IDs. The scene was enforced with music of various levels of understanding, not something that the Romanians invented, but something where they had a meaningful contribution. It's now about a lot more than making people dance.
Words by Bianca
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