Terminal V Podcast 024 || Tijana T
Since her first brushes with electronic music over 20 years ago Belgrade artist Tijana T has been flying the Serbian flag wherever she goes. That may be in her home country at all night long sets at her beloved Drugstore and Klub 20/44, but it is her association with large events that has perhaps had the biggest impact on her. Having originally been behind a microphone speaking to the artists that were headlining the gargantuan festival she now finds herself the one headlining and fielding questions from the press.
A perfectionist by her own admission Tijana chooses to pick her releases carefully instead concentrating on her role as one of the most knowledgeable selectors on the circuit. That is exactly what she has done and then some. Her sets, much like her own music tastes are extremely obtuse and cover a lot of ground. This has in turn given her the tools to flex her musical chops and has created the opportunity for her to shine. Breaks, acid, leftfield house and of course techno all converge in her podcast for us and you can consider this a warning to not miss her in action when she turns out for our Halloween Festival…
What has been happening in your world lately Tijana?
In all honesty, I’ve been just trying to keep my sanity in the last year or so. I’ve been hit particularly hard by the pandemic circumstances and some personal and family tragedies, it’s been so much to cope with. I will be happy if I get out of this period sane and healthy. I’m regularly doing my Rinse shows, which has been the shining light of every month, recording podcasts and streams selectively, trying not to lose connection to music despite all the hard times.
How is the Serbian nightlife scene recovering at present, has there been any exciting developments as a result of the quieter times?
Serbian scene is very exciting in general and in recent years more exciting than ever. I’m very happy and proud about the younger generations of DJs and producers and bands, they are just doing their thing fearlessly, my generation was less brave. We grew up in times of political and economic isolation, we were not allowed to travel so our self-confidence was really low. We always thought somewhere out there in the big Western world things are better. Generations that came after us are free, they can travel, they can connect on the internet and they see that they are not less worth than anyone. And since life in Serbia is still a struggle, that makes them twice as good as they have to work more. What I see right now (I just came back from spending 4 months in Berlin) is that everyone is so super enthusiastic and full of energy in Belgrade. The vibe at the parties is over the roof! Many DJs have been sober for a while and I think that reflects on a better focus and overall quality of output. There’s so many events and the music is incredibly good at each one.
How have you found musical output during these times? Have you found it has been badly impacted or in a positive way?
I had some periods of real crisis where I could not connect with the music at all. But in general, I was digging without thinking about the context in which the music would be played. I did not look for music for festival gigs, or club gigs or dancefloors in general. I’ve just been recording mixes and podcasts with this freedom to switch from one style to another and without a need to create dancefloor tension or even play 4/4. Let’s see how that will reflect on my actual gigs this summer 🙂
Your track selection is quite wide, how did you cultivate this in the early years when there perhaps weren’t so many record stores in Serbia?
There was not a single record store in Serbia and even now we have maybe two, both second hand and not focused on electronic music. We had Soulseek and this is how we actually managed to connect and keep the music alive. There was no export or import, no stores and music distribution at all, so we were getting all the music illegally, which in the end I think was a good thing. The economy was so low that nobody would even be able to afford the music officially and legally, those prices were insane for us, but we still managed to educate ourselves and these artists whose music we were following can always come and play in Serbia and they will have an audience. Also, we had a few really good radio stations back then that gave us this wide interest in music. Somehow back then in Belgrade it was actually very cool and respected to know a lot about music. All the genres, everything that’s good. People who had an interest in just one specific genre were considered narrow-minded, not cool. This is how I grew up musically and that is what I still do, as much as I can.
Talk us through your gig at your beloved Klub 20/44, the range of feelings that night must have been off the chart?
It was the second gig after lockdown, the first one being in Kiev a few weeks ago at the incredible ∄ club. I think that gig healed me, quite literally. Then I came to Belgrade and really wanted to play 20/44, a boat club on the river where I started doing my, now traditional allnighters. I haven’t played there in 3 years, as I was more connected with Drugstore in the meantime. I actually can’t even describe what happened that night. It was packed, people were queuing outside, I somehow didn’t expect this. I was quiet in Belgrade in the last year or so, spent most of my time in Berlin and somehow had this idea that not many people missed my sets. But it seemed it was quite the opposite. The best part was seeing a lot of people who don’t even go out anymore, last time I saw them in a club was maybe 10 years ago, all of my friends were there, lots of people who don’t live in Serbia anymore somehow showed up too and lots of young, beautiful ravers. The young ones somehow even knew tracks from my previous sets and recordings and they had requests on their phone screens. That was really touching. I had some sort of a plan for my set, but it didn’t go that way at all, I played for 7 hours, played a few hits that literally set the party on fire. Lots of nostalgia, lots of intensity. It was maybe even too exciting after a long time of stillness and isolation, at moments I thought my heart would explode.
You must also be super excited about EXIT returning, tell us about your involvement in the festival and what it means to you?
I’ve been part of the festival since the very beginning, 20 years ago. First as an enthusiastic journalist, interviewing 15 musicians per day then as part of Exit team. I was creating their TV shows broadcasted on national TV. It was so exciting back then, it was the first music festival in Serbia and I still keep this memory of Exit being something very very special. I’m not sure if this is my subjective feeling, totally biased or it really is something extraordinary. But judging by the reactions of hundreds of DJs and musicians who have played there, it seems like it’s not just another festival 🙂 People who have played everywhere across the planet and who can play wherever they wish – they always choose returning to Exit. My gig there this year was confirmed at the very last moment and I was very surprised. In a positive way of course. Playing the great Dance Arena is a huge responsibility, so it makes me a bit nervous too.
cFinally let’s talk about the mix you have just created for us, tell us about the tracks that you have chosen and why?
The way I prepare my sets and mixes is not something I can easily put into words, so not sure if I’m even able to give you this answer. I go through my collection, I dig new music and I just put everything in one large playlist and start recording. This is how it works. It’s always spontaneous and I just let it flow. All my sets except for one are recorded like that. This one specifically is recorded in one take with the music I selected. It doesn’t sound perfect and it should not sound perfect. It is what it is, just a moment captured from my mind and soul through the equipment. This is why my sets often sound very different from each other, as they capture different moments and moods.
How important is it to you that there is this range of sounds in your DJ sets? Would you ever compromise on the tracks you want to play if they weren’t connected very well musically?
I think my biggest compromise is that I always mix the tracks, if I can’t mix them together and connect in that way then I don’t play it in that particular set. I do have all sorts of music, all sorts of beats and styles, from 60 to 170 BPM and depending on the set the music always gets played eventually. But actually, when I was starting as a DJ I didn’t even care if they mix well, I just played whatever I wanted and somehow it sounded really exciting. Maybe I will be brave enough to go wild again.
Will this be a similar sound you will be bringing to Edinburgh for your debut in October?
I don’t know. We will see what that moment will bring. No promises, no limits 🙂
Interview by Stu Todd