We reached out to Naja Orashvili, founder of techno club BASSIANI/HOROOM, a safe haven for partygoers in the heart of Georgia's capital city, Tbilisi.

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Photo Credit: Levan Maisuradze

Who is behind your club? What is the history of your organisation?

BASSIANI/HOROOM was created as a response to a dominant culture, in order to have a safe place to meet, befriend, dance together and unite the people of diverse life experiences who were marginalized and ostracized from the general society and who were refusing to accept its imperative “norms”. So we knew from there, as an under-ground base for “deviants” who were not only rejecting but fighting against the conservative, sexist, homophobic, unequal and injustice political status-quo, that it would implode significant social changes.

The in-depth history of the techno and electronic music scene taught us that its social importance is what makes it valuable most. The team behind BASSIANI/HOROOM, which consists of dedicated techno music lovers who have been initiating club nights and festivals around Georgia for a long time already, had acknowledged it from the very beginning.

Where is your club located? Do you know it’s building’s history? Does the district where it is have a specific history regarding the city’s history?

Home of BASSIANI is the underground swimming pool beneath Dinamo Arena, the biggest national football stadium in Georgia. Built in 1932-1935, It’s original architectural style was based on ancient roman arena aesthetics, with huge columns providing support to tribunes. Lately, in the 70’s it was demolished and rebuilt according to then-current, typical Soviet brutalist architectural trends and till now it remains as one of the main embodiments of Soviet/Georgian brutalism.

Inside Bassiani @ We are Europe
Inside Bassiani © Levan Maisuradze

The stadium has been a steady field of not only the sports-related masculine energy, but a spot of political gatherings and turmoils during the 90’s and 00’s. It’s surrounded by an old bazaar full of workers and homeless people by late hours, providing a distinctive contrast between the magical club nights and the nightmarish social life of Georgia, prompting club goers to never lose contact with daily injustice and unequal reality.

Musically & aesthetically speaking, how would you describe the scene in which your club evolves? Can you present us your resident(s) if you have some? Or artists who play regularly at your venue?

Techno has become the soundtrack of resistance and protest for our generation. The electronic music scene of Tbilisi consists of impressive artists, who fully express the spirit and sound of our clubs. Among them are BASSIANI residents: DVS1, NEWA, KANCHELI, HVL, HECTOR OAKS, NODREX, ZESKNEL, NINASUPSA, KVANCHI, ZITTO, DITO, HAMATSUKI, who focus on adaptation and interaction with the dancefloor and crowd. The energy which is coming from their music is always exceptional.

What’s special when partying in your nightclub ?

The biggest surprises are the stories of change and transformation of dancers in just one night. The history of club culture is the history of reconciliation of the groups and persons who were scattered and confronted with each other, but still, what happened on the dancefloors of Tbilisi seemed unthinkable years ago.

Bassiani Lights @ We are Europe
Bassiani Lights © Levan Maisuradze

These floors managed to unite the most hostile and antagonistic groups of society, homophobes and queers, transgenders, women and men, people from different social classes and different parts of the city, from centres and ghettos; We all unified to fight for justice and equality, that’s the biggest accomplishment of our scene.

Please describe one specific night/one special moment during your club’s life that illustrates its DNA ?

Dancefloors is a magical, unpredictable space which puts the mind into an altered state of consciousness through music and dance and stimulates the thoughts, the transformation.

Absolutely sincere energy which shakes the crowd of thousands at BASSIANI is what makes it remarkable, the dance of people who express their freedom, their stories, troubles and dreams by moving their bodies. So I always keep saying that every night is different and special in its own way.

How does your club interact within its political local context? Are relations pacific or conflictual?

BASSIANI/HOROOM has never been just a club for us. Built upon the shared vision and values, provoking the change has been the main aim of our team since the beginning, not only on the Tbilisi club scene but in the society generally. In response to the current socio-economical and political challenges of our country, paradoxically enough, the oppressive system works not for solving the problems, but to fight against all who notice and critically reflect on them, against people who make noise and speak up loudly.

Bassiani @ We are Europe
Bassiani / Horoom © Levan Maisuradze

So, as the clubs became the basis for the groups who make noise, dancers became the targets, and dancing itself became a political act. People who enter the clubs give themselves not to the hedonistic act of oblivion, but to the conscious state of resistance and those are the people who’re in the vanguard of all new social movements in Georgia.

Would you say running your nightclub alors means political involvement? Is the dancefloor a political space according to you? What is the social and political role of the “night” sector?

Clubs, by the most general definition, are the spaces where people with shared or often different visions and interests gather. This definition is of course kept when we talk about the music clubs, because music and dance are one of the most basic interests of humans. So, as we talk particularly about techno, which takes inspiration from the modern techno-industrial world and the people of this heavy world with their own troubles and struggles, therefore we speak of it as a language of modern protests.

Inside Bassiani © Nia Gvatua

A club, where artists talk to the audience with this language naturally transforms into a common space for sharing and reflecting those problems, ideas. People see that notwithstanding numerous social, racial, gender or other differences, they have common problems, ideas, feelings, emotions, and they start to unite, connect and self-organise to overcome the obstacles, to help each other. Therefore, carefulness and solidarity is the indivisible part of club culture, and when this act becomes regular, it starts to come out of clubs to the outside world, to the streets, in a daily life.

We certainly believe that the dancefloor has the power to combat inequality, we just need to not stop. Everyone of us should take our own responsibility in the process of forming a friendly, healthy society. This process doesn’t come without obstacles and barriers, but the main thing is to refuse the attitudes which demonizes and outcasts any social class or group, especially now, at those hard times when solidarity is the only way out.

Would you say that the current “nightlife” shutdown is a democratic issue (as the dancefloor can be seen as a space for sharing ideas, debating, etc)?

Nowadays we frequently see the critics asking why do we obey the state, why don’t we strike against the Covid regulations, but the critics forget that the health issue is not a matter of individual and personal, rather a common responsibility as we lose people and their lives on a daily basis now.

Decks @ Bassiani
Dancefloor © Levan Maisuradze

Clubs actually were one of the firsts to close its doors on its own way from the very beginning of the pandemic, because we acknowledge and defend the main accomplishment of club culture – the idea of safe space, with carefulness, responsibility and common good being its backbone. Although we should remember that the instinct of socialisation is universal and in cities, where the state maintains strict regulations and simultaneously doesn’t implement proper policies of healthcare and well-being, illegal spaces are being created and they’re more dangerous in terms of health issues.

How do you see the future?

We see various new concepts and models of club nights, such as digital halls, video streaming platforms, dancefloors cut in zones or sitting crowds separated with real-life bubbles in the last year since the pandemic began. Personally I am very skeptical towards building such a simulated environment as a new alternative to what once used to be a club life, and hopefully it will be again, as that simulated reality to me evokes the fears of the end of club culture as we knew it. Of course, it’s a matter of fact that those nights will not return with the old form and meaning, and here it becomes even more important to rethink the history and values of club culture during the isolation.

Although, the crisis totally changed the discourse and unfortunately, financial problems are what we are worried about most, as the threat to our existence at all. But again, sure, we have to think about the financial issues and that might indulge some changes in the policies, but it’s crucial that we do not forget that those safe spaces of non-dominant culture were created primarily for the most vulnerable groups and whenever we have our clubs back, they shouldn’t return as the ones only for elites. It’s really hard to see the future considering that new reality and modified context, so until now I think the only hope lies in our memories, which reminds us of some of our best nights on the dancefloors.

This article is part of our “Club to Cloud” series where we explore clubs all over Europe. The series is available here.

About the interviewee

Naja Orashvili was one of the representatives of Electronauts – a foundation dedicated to Electronic music and innovative pop-culture. For years, she has been producing TV shows about music and cinema, fighting for equal human rights as part of the White Noise Movement. Naja is also an author of Women’s Solidarity March, a public feminist rally for gender equality and also board member of Equality Movement – for LGBT/Queer rights. Author of “System Must Be Destroyed” – a widespread youth protest rally in 2012, protesting civil inequality and requesting democratic changes in Georgia.

She’s the founder of The Cultural and Creative Industries Union of Georgia and Project manager in United We Stream Tbilisi. She’s founder and author of the concept and idea of techno club BASSIANI/HOROOM, which not only provided the underground bases for all new social movements in Georgia, but also evoked a cultural Revolution, manifested as a globally famous, massive Dance protests dubbed as Rave Revolution in the main streets of Tbilisi in 2018. Naja is an author of concept of Horoom Nights – the first and biggest Queer party series.

Her works and thoughts have been part of numerous international exhibitions, festivals and panel discussions including Frei(t)raume Berlin, Germany; Amsterdam Dance Event, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Fusion Festival, Larz, Germany; Social Design, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria. Budapest Underground, Budapest, Hungary. Nuits Sonores & European Lab, Brussels, Belgium and many more. For Now she is a co-founder of act4culture / Cultural and Creative Industries Union of Georgia.

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