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Rave Scenes- Tbilisi

A 174bpm rumble can be heard on the horizon of Tbilisi, as the capital of Georgia begins to find its feet in the world of drum & bass.

The beautiful nation in the Caucuses, which has a population of only 3.7 million, already punches well above its weight in the world of techno. The country is no stranger to rave culture and electronic music, far from it in fact. Tbilisi, which has been coined the new Berlin by some, already has legendary status in the techno scene – drawing in many of the world’s leading names on a regular basis, and boasts nightclubs, which have been listed among the world’s best. 

Bassiani is one, spoken about in the same high esteem as Berghain in Berlin, by many in the techno community. The enormous venue, is found buried beneath the country’s national football stadium, in a former Olympic swimming pool. Every weekend more than 1,000 techno ravers two-step until lunch-time the next day, as the likes Ben Klock and Nina Kraviz play from the pool’s old diving board, and hordes of people dance below. 

The country has a clear appetite for raving, with many other large and industrial style nightclub venues, which are packed out on a regular basis – including Khidi and Left Bank, just to name a few. It’s a world leader among techno fans, but now the cogs are beginning to turn in the country’s d&b scene.

 

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Passionate locals are beginning to mobilise, thanks to a collective called DNB Georgia, who have begun organising nights in smaller venues around Tbilisi, set-up a record label, and now host podcasts for aspiring local d&b DJs. Some of the group were influenced by time spent living and raving abroad, as one of its founders Gaga-Giorgi Itonishvilli, who performs under the name, Baba explains ,“After spending quite a few years in London, between 2010-2013, and attending many D&B raves in places like Fabric, I arrived back in my country. I realised there was not a single place where I could go and listen to D&B, so I learned how to mix and started seeking likeminded people. Pre-Covid we started hosting free events, renting our private houses on the outskirts of Tbilisi, to try and generate interest. It’s there we found many more people who had love for the genre.”

As most nations found, the pandemic pressed paused on all best made plans, including the Georgian d&b push, but Baba says it has burst into a life since restrictions eased, “After COVID alertness swept away and clubs became more active again, we were invited a couple of times to perform at parties hosted by others promoters. This reignited our spark and we have since begun hosting our own, dedicated, D&B events, where we started selling tickets and renting out small venues in Tbilisi.”

The efforts are certainly turning heads – heavy-weight duo Magnetude, who have released on RAM Records in the past and have their own label called Evolution Chamber, have already stepped into the Georgian d&b arena, performing at two events over the past year. Rustam Mansurov from Magnetude explains, “I moved to Tbilisi last year and pretty much after I arrived, I met Beka who runs DNB Georgia. He helped me settle in, showed me around the city, made me feel really welcome and we’ve become very good friends. It’s massively untapped from a d&b perspective, I don’t think many international acts have performed here, which is quite telling. We’re currently in talks with a couple of promoters about future dates in Georgia, which we will be announcing in the coming months.”

 Credit- Sandro Murvanidze

Despite the country only having a population about a third of the size of London, it has a heavy-weight reputation in the electronic music scene already – with many dedicated rave venues, geared up for the techno scene.The enormous local contingent of dedicated ravers has been bolstered by the country’s tourism boom.

The country attracted 5.4 million tourists in 2022, who are drawn for the country’s stunning mountainous scenery and ski resorts, its fascinating historical and cultural mix and increasingly, its lively nightlife scene. The country, which is the birthplace of wine, attracts tens of thousands of young travellers every year, with a dedicated digital nomad visa, designed to draw in young minds and ideas from across the world. 

On top of that, the war in Ukraine has also a big impact on the number of young people entering the country. As of February (the latest official figures), more than 160,000 Ukrainians fled to Georgia since the beginning of the war, along with many Russians. The international mix of new people living in Georgia and the number of short-term tourists, has boosted interest in the country’s d&b scene further, as local djs Beka Gorgidze-Gabunia & Alexsandr Spiridonov, The Machete Boyz,  highlight. “It has had a real impact on D&B in the country. Lots of the new arrivals are in love with D&B, so when they see there is a proper D&B movement locally, they are very happy to come to support events. We have had people attend events from France, Germany, UK and other countries too. Georgia has the potential to become a huge rave destination for d&b and bass music artists. There are lots of amazing locations in Georgia, where we can hold amazing gigs. Besides the music quality and the large number of ravers, Georgia’s nature and vibe will also do its job to attract artists in.”

With the organised local scene still in its infancy, but with two events now successfully held at clubs in Tbilisi, under the DNB Georgia label, the group are now in the process of organising more. Local d&b dj, Nikoloz Egorov, Multi, says the reception has been very positive so far, “We love the energy people are giving back to us and that is what makes us want to do it even more. I love talking to staff at clubs, after the events have finished, they are amazed at the reception every time and want us to come back and play again.”

The DNB Georgia collective have large ambitions for the future and are making in-roads to make more people in the nation aware of drum and bass music.

In a small, but fiercely proud country like Georgia, seeing local people do well and the Georgian name in the media can be transformational back home. One only has to look at the Georgian footballer, Khvicha Kvaratshelia, who helped Napoli win the Serie A in Italy – he has been elevated to icon status back home. 

Baba says keeping locals at the heart of the project is key to future success. “We are beginning to release tracks under the official d&b Georgia label this month. In those tracks, some will be accompanied by lyrics in the Georgian language, to attract more local listeners and give them something to relate to. We’re also recording audio and video podcasts by residents on the DNB Georgia label, along with guest performances, to help spread the word on social media.  We have lots more events in the pipeline and are hoping to reach out to more sponsors, to get more people involved in the movement.

The guys at DNB Georgia came together to create organisation to an otherwise dispersed d&b community in the country. They hope by being organised they can help create the spark for the nation’s untapped D&B potential, as The Machete Boyz explain, “We have huge ambitions for DNB Georgia. We have already started discussions with internationally recognised D&B artists and have plans to collaborate with other large labels and festivals in other countries. We want to help elevate the Georgian bass music scene and help it become internationally regarded. We would really like to see people raving regularly to D&B in the well-known Georgian clubs such as Bassiani, Khidi, TES, Left Bank and Mtkvarze.”

Some of the big-name venues and promoters are already taking note.

credit- DNB Georgia

The Machete Boyz have highlighted TES, a multipurpose rave and events’ space in a former factory, on the east bank of Tbilisi’s Kura River, as having already hosted bass music events over the past year.

Rustam from Magnetude believes creating a multi-genre music event could help open more Georgian eyes and ears to the scene, “d&b definitely does have potential to grow here, but the main factor is trying to reach out to a wider audience, which is never easy. Overall, the quality of clubs and venues is good – maybe doing d&b in the main room, and techno in room 2, could pull people in from the techno market and introduce them to d&b.”

However, funding is one issue which the DNB Georgia crew are trying to navigate through.  17.5% of Georgia’s population are classed as living in poverty, so disposable income isn’t freely available among certain portions of the population. However, the economy is growing fast thanks to its tourism boom. 

Baba, from DNB Georgia, says the scene is having to grow at a steady pace to due to those factors. “We get quite a few messages from artists who want to come to Georgia and hold a gig, but we have to be very open and frank with them – there are not many people able to sponsor the hosting of the event and there won’t be a large pay cheque at the moment.”

credit, Sandro Murvanidze

With passionate locals, such as DNB Georgia, leading the charge to promote the genre in their local community, the collective is laying the ground work for local D&B growth in the future. Baba, from DNB Georgia, says they have big hopes for a number of local DJs/producers, who they hope will soon make an impression outside of Georgia’s borders.Baba, a talented D&B DJ & producer in his own right, outlines who we should be keeping an eye on in the Georgian D&B scene,The Machete Boyz, Multi, P1tt, AWKilla, Nava, The Shining One, MX, Chromie and Slah Tah. Although, we must also mention, the Sioni Hi-Fi Crew, who have built their own sound system and cover various bass heavy genres at their events.Occasionally they’ve hosted D&B sets, including at the nightclub TES.”

The D&B seed is firmly planted in Georgian soil and with the careful nurturing by a dedicated and passionate group like DNB Georgia, the conditions look positive for the scene to blossom in the future. With the Georgian movement already turning the heads of internationally recognised artists, such as Magnetude, and word spreading about the growing D&B community in this stunning nation – it won’t be long before waves of ravers begin to skank across Tbilisi’s many clubs and warehouse spaces.

Georgia is a new D&B frontier for the adventurous raver and we think it’s a nation to keep a very close eye on in the future.