Shano and Nia. Photos by Stanislaw Boniecki. 

meet the faces of tbilisi's legendary techno club

Nearly six months after the 'rave revolution' that made Bassiani famous, i-D spoke to the club's regulars about their hopes for the future.

by Nicole DeMarco
|
11 December 2018, 12:34pm

Shano and Nia. Photos by Stanislaw Boniecki. 

Bassiani is a dark, labyrinth of a nightclub that lies underneath the national football stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia. Its main dancefloor occupies an Olympic size swimming pool built by the former Soviet government, and it was empty for years before Tato Getia, Zviad Gelbakhiani, and Naja Orashvili opened the legendary techno club there in 2014. In the last few years, it’s captured international attention — and so have Tbilisi’s young producers and DJs — ushering in a wave of techno tourism that put the Eastern European city on the map. More recently, however, Tbilisi’s dance music scene has come under attack by its own government, radical nationalist groups, and the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Georgian police raided Bassiani and the smaller, LGBTQ haven Cafe Gallery, last May, armed with machine guns and shields to conduct drug-related arrests. The country also boasts some of Europe’s most draconian drug laws, that place many of their youth behind bars. “If you’re found with one pill of ecstasy, you go to jail from five to eight years. If it’s the active substance over one gram, like six pills for instance, you go to jail for eight to 20 years or lifetime,” LGBTQ rights activist Paata Sabelashvili told the BBC. Bassiani is closely associated with the White Noise Movement, which advocates for the liberalisation of Georgia’s drug legislation.

Dozens of clubgoers were detained that night, in what was seen as an attack on progressive youth culture. In the aftermath, they took to the streets in a weekend long protest turned ‘rave revolution’ in front of Georgia’s Parliament, where protestors were met with right wing extremists, neo-Nazi groups, and religious conservatives. While there’s undoubtedly a creative renaissance happening in Tbilisi, the young country is also experiencing a cultural divide between generations.

i-D asked some of Bassiani’s regular ravers what makes the club so special, how it’s become a safe space for the LGBTQ community, and what their hopes are for Georgia’s future.

Vako. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.
Vako. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.

Name: Vako Kharbedia Age: 22

What do you do?
I’m working at CHAOS concept store as a shop-assistant and working at Bassiani as a bouncer. I’m studying art at Ilia State University.

What makes Bassiani special?
Bassiani is one of the first spaces where people could freely express themselves.

How has it provided a safe space for the community?
Bassiani became an iconic place for the young generation of Georgia, including the LGBTQ community. It can be said that this was the first time people could express their sexual identity without fear of aggression. Clubs have generated a society of open minded people who could dance together and the only threat that they are facing comes from the outside — from the government and aggressive nationalistic groups.

What are your hopes for Georgia's future?
I hope that in the future there will be less economic and social inequality like we see in today’s Georgia. My hope is strengthened by recent developments in the young generation's mentality. I have witnessed how people who in the past did not care about inequality or minority rights are now strong supporters of these issues.

Nina. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.
Nina. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.

Name: Nina Botchorishvili Age: 26

What do you do?
I work at CHAOS Concept Store and I am a DJ.

What makes Bassiani special?
For me, it’s a place where I feel very comfortable and safe. I appreciate the idea behind it — they are against any kind of discrimination and are supporters of minorities.

How has it provided a safe space for the community?
It’s quite hard to provide a safe space in Georgia because of the government’s attitude towards such places and all the aggressive far right movements. I think they are doing their best to protect people who are attending the clubs regularly.

What's happening in Georgia right now that everyone should know about?
I think it’s in the process of a big change. Georgia’s recent past, like most post-soviet countries, is brutal. We have a war between generations. There is a rising movement full of hate and on the other hand there is a crowd with Western values, who are keen to live in a country where basic human rights are protected. But the chaotic mix of different cultures in one place makes Georgia so special. We are in the process of reevaluating our past.

Iva. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.
Iva. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.

Name: Iva Kimeridze Age: 23

What do you do?
I’m an actor.

What makes Bassiani special?
I think nowadays, Bassiani is one of the most important things in Tbilisi. Bassiani is creating a place where you can feel free, express yourself, be who you are. It’s very friendly to the LGBTQ community. People learn how to be friends — not enemies — and to feel that things connect all of us. There’s hope for change in the air, especially after the protests in front of the Parliament. ‘We dance together, we fight together.’ It’s not just a club. It is connecting us and it makes us stronger.

What are your hopes for Georgia's future?
I hope that Georgia is going to be the place where people can make their dreams come true. I hope it’s going to be more creative, concentrated on art than it is now, open to new things, and a country with more freedom, ambitions, and opportunities.

Nia. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.
Nia. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.

Name: Nia Gvatua Age: 28

What do you do?
I’m a mother to my nine-year-old son. I own the only gay bar in Georgia, success.bar. I started recently working at Bassiani as an interior designer and I’m doing a collaboration with Salome Bezarashvili on fetish clothes designed for CHAOS Concept Store.

What makes Bassiani special?
You have to be there and feel it yourself. It’s so pure and the dance floor is perfect. What you feel there, you can’t feel the same anywhere.

What's happening in Georgia right now that everyone should know about?
After the Soviet Union, after the civil war, after continuous wars, and despite so many oppressions — people who could get over all this struggle and survive and stay open minded — these people are so special. I’m so proud watching my generation and how they blossomed. Our creativity went beyond the reality.

What are your hopes for Georgia's future?
Of course, I hope for a better, more progressive future where people won’t go to prison for possessing one gram of MDMA. I hope for more freedom for my country — more happiness.

Shano. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.
Shano. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.

Name: Giorgi “Shano” Shanidze Age: 29

What do you do?
I studied at the academy of arts and play drums. My job? I rave.

What makes Bassiani special?
A lot of things make Bassiani special — the place where it is, the crew, the crowd, resident DJs, and so on — but the main thing is the spirit. True, young, and brave. Some people go to Church. I go to Bassiani.

How has it provided a safe space for the community?
First of all, it’s the crew and security guys. A lot of them are very good friends of mine. We've learned how to take care of each other and fight for our rights together.

What's happening in Georgia right now that everyone should know about?
For Georgia, it’s a hard time now. We are trying to become a young, independent, modern country, but a lot of different political forces and of course the orthodox church are working against us.

Ano. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.
Ano. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.

Name: Ano Jishkariani Age: 22

What do you do?
I work at the interior and product design company, Rooms Design, and also on independent projects.

What makes Bassiani special?
It’s vibe. The dancers and their freedom make the place what it is. Throughout the years, the club has become a place of social change among the young generation, leading to more and more progressive thinkers. Besides, it’s the best place to rave.

How has it and other clubs, provided a safe space for the community?
In the past few years, clubs have become the place where people who have the same progressive ideas about society get together. The clubs play a big part in in by supporting those ideas.

What are your hopes for Georgia's future?
Free, independent, educated new generations that will build a better country.

Salome. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.
Salome. Photo by Stanislaw Boniecki.

Name: Salome Bezarashvili Age: 29

What do you do?
I’m co-founder of CHAOS Concept Store.

What makes Bassiani special?
Bassiani is a place where you can party really hard. It transforms Georgian youths’ brains, which are slave to cultural and traditional rules.

What's happening in Tbilisi or Georgia right now that everyone should know about?
The Georgian government attacked Bassiani a few months ago, but I still think that it’s the safest place to rave in Tbilisi. In my years of travel, Tbilisi is coolest place for clubbing right now.

What are your hopes for Georgia's future?
I hope that this cultural transformation will be in progress very soon.

This article originally appeared on i-D US.