We continue to speak about Belarusian musicians in Batumi. In the second part we talked about the specifics of the Georgian scene and creative adaptation in a new country.
What are you doing now? Besides music?
Dima: I explore Georgia, mainly the neighbourhoods of Batumi and Tbilisi. I work as a content manager for a Belarusian company. I write small notes about life on my Instagram, and also a picture of cows and I’m thinking of learning some Georgian musical instrument like the panduri.
Timur: I have a pretty good remote job for Europe, basically my only salary. My friend Andrei and I got together and opened a rehearsal point, but that’s a separate story. Otherwise I’m trying to help people I like and their ideas. I try to diversify my interests creatively, I try to edit videos, videotape, mix and master my own and my friends’ music.
Yaroslav: Professionally I do design and animation. In my free time I usually walk and think. I also communicate a lot with people, go to the nature, to the mountains, raise my daughter, try to keep myself cheerful and strong in difficult times, not to fall apart, learn different things in Georgia to bring the best to free Belarus.
Sergei: I try to survive and remain a human being. I taught my son to race on a mountain bike. In Batumi, I created a video studio together with a colleague. You can write sound minimally there too. That’s the fun news. I hope to find a house within a month and settle down to finally arrange all that archive of thoughts and ideas. And move some instruments.
And as far as music? Where do you perform?
Dima: When I arrived I got into the creative association Ambience Probe, where people from the underground are gathered, for example, from the “Moscow Noise Manufactory”. In general, there are about 90 percent of people from Russia. Most of the time I play in Tbilisi with them: drone, ambient, experimental music. There are a few projects that I really like: Cotton Rust, Helga Luzhnikova, Epafi, for example.
Timur: By some unbelievable chance almost full line-up of Unhuman Remains was in Batumi, so we played some shows and now we are trying to find new material.
Also a couple of new line-ups of the Magical One-Cell music were spontaneously formed, mostly for specific gigs. There were also several attempts at interesting projects and ideas, the main thing is to find the time and energy to bring them to completion.
Yaroslav: Thanks to the point I mastered the bass guitar and sometimes perform as a bassist in the Magical One-Cell Music – 44. I also played here in the bands Dog Life, Devil Carpets, Nautilus Pompilius – 2 and The H…s. I gathered here a small home studio and finished the album Sun Finds Its Eyes “There is only myth” started in Minsk. Wrote new material. Learned to play guitar better. Learned to play samba on drums.
Sergei: By July was very actively writing a soundtrack for a future movie project. Showed the trailer at a pitch in Copenhagen. The feedback on the music was better than on the picture *ha-ha*
Timur, you said above that you opened your own rehearsal point? Was it difficult to realise this in Batumi?
Timur: At first, before the war, when I came to Batumi on vacation, my friends and I were surprised how many musicians were constantly arriving in Georgia and that there were practically no places where they could freely rehearse without disturbing anyone. After thinking about it for a couple of months, we decided with Andrei to chip in and invest some money to buy a machine.
At first it was just a couple of combos and a monitor, we put it all in our favourite punk bar Gigglz Bistro and together with a local Georgian young hardcore-punk band, who had a drum kit, we used it all for rehearsals. Concerts of visiting anarchist and metal bands were Иplayed on these instruments. Soon we had to look for a more reliable place, so that the equipment would not break down completely. Having bought the minimum amount of necessary things, we opened a rehearsal point for everyone in a new room in another part of the city. We called it a point.
Everything works on the principle of “the admin comes once to get acquainted, and then the musicians themselves come in, using the key from the code lock”.
After a while we had to move to another floor in another room. But Nastya, a cool professional sound engineer, took part in the renovation and arrangement of the studio’s acoustic qualities, soundproofing and creating comfort. Then she started full-time sound recording in another, more convenient for her and suitable for this business place, but, nevertheless, she continues to co-operate with us, she comes to record musicians. And there are other sound engineers who co-operate with us, for example soundvlad, he had his own place in Shabany in Minsk.
It is relatively easy to open and legalise your business in Georgia. The main problem is finding the right quality equipment for a reasonable price, because here, compared to Eastern Europe, it is a misery. But there are people, including those from Belarus, who consolidate orders from Europe and help pay for customs clearance and delivery.
Do a lot of musicians come to you to play? Are there any criteria for those who come or is there a rehearsal point for everyone?
Timur: Those who wanted to come immediately appeared, when there was an opportunity to rehearse and record, it’s amazing. Indeed, a lot of great people came from Belarus and Russia. There are no criteria in principle, except for the basic requirement to remain a human being morally. Sometimes Georgian groups come, but the language barrier prevents them. Even after the opening of competing outlets, there are enough customers to pay the rent, pay the admin’s salary and slowly repair and replenish consumables. The community of musicians is only growing, and that’s a good thing. We don’t treat our point as a serious business, for me personally it’s first of all an attempt to do something ourselves and let others use it.
Do you do collaborations with Georgian musicians or other emigrants (musicians)?
Dima: Yes, I am open to collaborative work, as mentioned earlier – there are projects. Haven’t tried with Georgians yet, but would like to.
Timur: I haven’t had any luck with Georgians so far. There was one concert in a skate park where me and my musician friends, who are not the most behaviourally trustworthy, were invited to play. We seemed to be well prepared, but the instruments was transported for six hours and we drank endless litres of beer while waiting. As a result, we, drunk in a stupor, rather badly performed for the audience the legendary inclusive song of no-wave band meatmen with the refrain “Because we are g***s, yes, yes, yes, d***k for, because we are g**s, yes, yes, yes, d**k for” and we were not understood, to put it mildly. Even the youngest local guys came up and said that this is not punk, but some shit. And so we played and play with guys from St. Petersburg, some of them participated in our “Minsk” projects. We had a crazy drummer Anton, he fit perfectly into our music, until he left for Turkey. There is a cool ambient drone musician Dima (different, not the one in the country), suddenly it turned out that we have common friends in St. Petersburg and Minsk. The light is tight. And yes, we are open to any interactions.
Yaroslav: we composed and recorded together with zebra a monumental composition “Glory to the mountains!”, in one of the culminations of which the Georgian rapper Nika Beridze from Milevskiy sings in his native language “Glory to the mountains, glory to the inner God, glory to me and glory to you!” And in general there is a text like this:
When you come down from the mountain, you don’t breathe.
Like precious gifts
You carry and hear
The honey voice of silence
In your rebellious
And the forehead of the rock hides
A gentle sunbeam
To glorify different things is given
With a rattling word
Who praises women and wine
I praise the mountains
Glory to the mountains!
To ridges and all the gorges!
Glory to the mountains!
To my beloved mountains!
Glory to the mountains!
Let the spirits of the mountains feast!
Glory to the mountains!
And let the beasts feast!
Glory to the mountains!
In the craters of the mountains, lava
Glory to the mountains!
Glory to the heroes!
Well, that’s a piece of it, there’s a lot of text, it’s in 6/8, with allusions to traditional Georgian music. If we find an accordionist, we’ll be on all platforms quickly.
Tell us about Georgia’s independent scene? What’s on the wave right now? Are there a lot of bands?
Timur: There’s a lot of electronic music now. Here in Batumi there is a movement of underground ravers called Khmebi, and they make cool upbeat and angry electronic music. There’s also a post-punk band skazz, kind of popular among young people, like coldwave or not, it’s not clear, it’s in trend now for some reason. But they have a funny guitarist who obviously knows how to have fun, I saw him doing a good black metal disco.
Thanks to Gigglz, I’ve seen many local (and not only) bands – punk, hardcore, death metal, all from Georgia. Young and interesting.
Dima: I was in Tbilisi at festivals, I listened to it, it rocks. Nothing came back, but that’s probably because I listen to completely different music now. Besides, I’m not a party person, and I don’t attend events “out of curiosity
What are the party places and venues in Georgia? Where do you perform or have performed?
Timur: The first place I liked in Batumi is the punk bar Gigglz, almost in the centre. It has a unique chaotic atmosphere. If you drink a lot, you might end up staying until late at night, making friends, having burn holes from cigarette butts on your clothes. If the bartender is in a good mood, you might wake up and continue celebrating life in the morning. It’s also a fundamentally anarchist place, for example, the members of “She Fell Apart” used to hold all sorts of topical film screenings there and talk about famous anarchists – victims of regimes and participants in the war against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. There were lectures about art. Swap markets where you could exchange things.
The authors of the idea of a punk venue moved from Russia a long time ago and dreamed of opening such a place, the pandemic tested them, and then Gigglz opened after all. Often, more than half of the visitors are Belarusians. I met two people from my Minsk school there. Besides, it was the only place in Batumi where naturally punk concerts were held; a hundred teenagers would come and slam to blood to local and visiting bands in the low basement.
Someone hits, screams, glass breaks, neighbours first call the police and then they chase them away, classic. The guys have even brought in punk bands from Europe. At the time of publication it is likely that the place will change dislocation because of the difficult situation of the owner of the place. But the place will continue to exist anyway in another place.
Also, thanks to Pasha from the TSNA group (it has no relation to our Minsk river), and the help of volunteers, a place called 9919 opened. It’s somewhat like a small non-commercial squat in an abandoned workshop-manufactory, essentially something between a garage and a hangar. There’s a stage for experimental theatre shows, a place for concerts and do performances, an art workshop, and exhibitions space. As far as I understand, the surfer guys brought the concept of such a space from their native Crimea. And there could be many similar places; it all depends on people’s desire and indifference. There are many other places, but these two are the most memorable. Both there and there concerts were played, and Belarusian showcases became more mass.
Dima: in Tbilisi I played in various clubs, like Nora, Antizone, Bunker. And also me and my Ambience Probe colleagues did a gig in Deda Ena Park: it was a surreal performance, as the music was pouring out in the middle of all the Sunday traffic: skateboarders were skating, kids were running around, the smell of grass, passers-by stopped and took in our vibes.
In Batumi I performed in a couple of places, the most atmospheric was Gigglz.
Yaroslav: Gigglz – one love.
Sergei: I agree with Yaroslav – Gigglz!
In Georgia, somewhere in the 2000s, there was a wave of post-punk, and it was quite high-quality. What sounds in the amplifiers of local and emigrated musicians now?
Timur: Yes, I’ve heard something from local guys and read about it. Even in the 90s, they played great music here. There’s a good article here. I’ve seen very young people coming to punk concerts wearing various cool shirts, for example, “Cannibal Corpse”.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what they listen to. Batumi is also a bad example because it’s a resort, and during the season, pop music is everywhere.
A sketch of the local colour in the depths of Batumi: away from tourist places, in a typical high-rise district there is a writing on the wall “Welcome to San Andreas, C. J.”.
In general, Sakartvelo is a country of traditions; here, they love, appreciate, listen to, and perform traditional Georgian folk music. Both old and young.
Tell us about the Georgian rave scene? Why do you think rave has become so popular in Georgia?
Timur: It’s an integral part of modern Georgian culture. People love parties, they love repetitive and rhythmic patterns; there are folk dance schools almost everywhere. This also comes from folk music, I think. And young people have gone into rave, it’s both a form of escapism from strong traditions and at the same time their cultural development.
Personally, I sometimes find raves boring. . If there were two DJs playing at the same time and they improvised their own music together, that would be cool.
How do you feel about authentic Georgian music? Don’t you think it’s kind of built on loops, where one section of music is cyclically repeated. This is often used in the music industry nowadays.
Dima: I really like it. Well, Georgian folk music does have some basis of consonances, harmonies and size. On the other hand, it’s applicable to any folk music or blues. Maybe for some people all their songs are loop-like, but personally I am not bored.
One more thing I’d like to say: Georgians love their folk music; it often plays in cars, cafes, on the streets. There’s no sense that people listen to it for exotic reasons or because it’s trendy; they just like it. I haven’t encountered this in Belarus, but essentially, it’s a layer of the theme about national consciousness, which is a deep topic beyond this interview.
Street music is also developed in Georgia. Can you tell us about it, what exactly is played, and where is the best street music? How does Georgian street music differ from Belarusian street music?
Timur: I live in Batumi, and here, in some places, it’s an open touristy hackwork, they earn their daily bread by doing this. They play traditional Georgian folk music, from a whole ensemble with drums and accordion tearing the soul apart to a no less soulful grandma rubbing a single string. All genres and styles are played. It’s beautiful, and, most importantly, relaxed. Nowhere else but in Georgian parks, thanks to the atmosphere among the locals, do you feel how quickly problems and heavy moods leave you.
Dima: In the early to mid-2010s, I played in a cover band at weddings and corporate events. After that, I physically couldn’t play or listen to cover versions, so I pass by, I don’t listen.I mean that on the streets they mostly play something popular, but Timur says that there is something different, and that makes me glad.
Yaroslav: There’s a lot of street music, a lot of different kinds and qualities. Sometimes I stop to listen to someone. Here, you can just walk down the street, wave your hands, and sing, and it won’t look like something extremely abnormal. In this sense, it’s more freeing here to express yourself outside your home compared to Belarus. Therefore, for both musicians and non-professionals, it’s much easier to just go out and play something.
In your view, what is the difference between the independent music scenes in Belarus and Georgia?
Dima: in my opinion, the Belarusian scene is more organised, especially before the general relocation. I won’t judge the whole scene. For example, raves and electronic music are popular here, and musicians do interesting things.
Timur: I haven’t quite figured out the essence of Georgia’s independent scene; it seems so extensive that it’s sometimes well integrated into the global industry and divided into subcultures more than the Belarusian scene. And from this it is not quite as clear as ours. Let the countrymen living in Tbilisi judge.
Yaroslav: I agree with Timur. There are many talented musicians, high-level performers. There are bands playing in different genres, but what interests me – original and experimental music, some artistic groups with like-minded people – I haven’t come across that yet. However, I’m sure that something like that is happening somewhere, perhaps I need to communicate more with locals and know the language.
What are your plans for the future? Have you ever thought about starting your own label or organising an open-air event? And where can people listen to your projects?
Dima: Lately, I’ve stopped making plans. More precisely, there’s only one plan – to live, to do what needs to be done, to discover something new in people and in myself through music.
Timur: Many dreams have appeared, from delusional to quite realistic. For example, an online radio with various interesting and not-so-interesting music and breaks for weather forecasts useless for Batumi. Or the revival of the killer project “Heavy Clouds” in a new genre.
For me, the most important thing I realised is to keep participating with people around me in something that charges meaning to you and others around you.
Yaroslav: In the nearest future I plan to act as an arranger in the poetic project “Cape Echo”. Also to bring to studio quality my accumulated demo-recordings, to record new material and better re-record the old one. In general I plan to continue in the same spirit.
You can listen to me in the loft 9919 in the evening, in the alcohol-free bar ALOHA, where I will talk about sex and death in ancient tradition, using the example of Apuleius’ text “Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass.”
Sergei: Hopefully on screens as soon as I finish the film.