Macedonia may not be one of the countries at the top of your ‘to travel’ list, but it’s definitely one that should not be underestimated.
For a small, landlocked country in the Balkans, its music scene holds its own. With bookings of the likes of Derrick May & Juan Atkins, could this be the next music destination?
Here at Beats Travel we like exploring new cultures and music scenes. This month, the team have immersed themselves into the Macedonia scene & soaked up the rich history of the land. We sat down with Ogi, one of the prominent members and driving forces of the Macedonian electronic community over the last 20 years, to get his take on his homeland.
MACEDONIA MUSIC SCENE PROFILE
NAME: Ognen Uzunovski ‘Ogi’.
ROLE: PROMOTER (Macedonia)
How did you start working in the music scene?
Before the year 2000, I had some problems with the law until a man called Samoil Radinski, one of the oldest DJs in Macedonia, took me in and introduced me to music. He invited me to come to his house and hide for 2 months. The whole time living together, listening to different styles of music from jazz and techno to house. This is where we also first watched the French documentary ‘the universal of techno’ and started seeing the guys from Detroit. Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Kenny Larkin, Stacey Pullen and many others. In that period, Smilen Dimitrov, a member of SAF – the most famous rap collective from Macedonia, was our tech guy. He was more educated in computers than most. So there were 4 of us that teamed up together. Myself, Samoil Radinski, Ivan Todorovski and Dr. Smilen Dimitrov creating the promoting agency BALANCE, celebrating 18 years this year!
Tell us a bit more about BALANCE, what has it built in the last 18 years?
First Balance party in Ohrid/Gradishte. Dr.Smilen Dimitrov, Derrick May, Ognen Uzunovski, SamoilRadinski 15.07.2000
Over the past 18 years, we have brought a lot of DJs and artists to Macedonia. We also organised two festivals in 2008 and 2009 called Fonetica, with mainly domestic artists. Although, the first festival was with Italian DJ Alaxander Robotnick. The festival was 15,000 people and held in the town of Struga. We also now run a club called Sektor 909.
We’ve been really impressed with the Macedonian scene. How do you think it compares to other countries in the Balkans?
I think Macedonia stands out more than any other country in the Balkans for our love and dedication to booking Detroit artists. No country in the Balkans books them like we do!
You translated Laurent Garnier’s book Electrochoc into Macedonian. Tell us about how this happened?
It was a passion project. Myself and a few other guys in the Balkans decided we wanted to translate it from French. It was actually translated into Macedonian before English! A year after that Laurent Garnier came and played here.
Do you travel outside of Skopje much to go to festivals?
Not so much. During the peak festival period when you have countries like Serbia holding EXIT and Lovefest; that is also our peak time with work here. We had planned a collaboration with them. We would take our Symphonic Orchestra to EXIT for their 15 year anniversary with the Underground Resistance but unfortunately it did not happen due to politics.
Do you have any local producers or promoters that people should know about?
Samoil Radinski, the founder of Logos Recordings and Nino Flooder, who plays only vinyl for the last 20 years.
For people thinking of visiting Macedonia, what tips do you have? Places to go/things to see…
Macedonia has very good food. You must know where to go. My favourite restaurant here is called Meana B. There is also one underground, very good restaurant called Amzo in Saraj.
We don’t have sea like the other Balkan countries but we have amazing mountains to explore. We also have Lake Ohrid, which is a must-see for your time here in Macedonia.
Countries like Croatia have risen tremendously with tourism. Do you think there will be a rise in Macedonia over the next 5 years?
Yes, I do. I am constantly talking to people involved with the government here. Especially as we have a new government over the past 2 years. In the past, we were very close in regards to party planning with Croatia and Serbia etc. However, over the last ten years, we started to get problems. Club inspections, raids on the clubs. I told them we must change this for the better. We must start a festival to build our image. One guy said to me the other day “Ogi, why should we have a big festival? We have countries in the Balkans that already do it. What are we going to do, something different”? And I replied, “Yes, what are you talking about, of course, we can do something different….”
Can you talk us through how the Macedonian music scene is currently set up?
We are a small country but we have our identity. We don’t have an EDM club like most big cities. Our most commercial music is deep house!
Who is your favourite artist you have brought to Macedonia?
My favourite is Juan Atkins. He is the originator. Not just as an artist but something deeper. He is a pure person.
If you are in Macedonia make sure you check out Sektor 909.
In the meantime, check out a few other artists we recommend.