in january we launched our podcast series natural habitats with a subaquatic mix from ukrainian dj, producer and multi-media artist roman/ habitat shaking. wanting to know more about his background and involvement in various projects, we had an interview with him that takes now a very different tone as the situation has drastically shifted, in ways we could have never imagined back then.
in the midst of the invasion of his home country, we want to take a moment to listen to his perspective and share his views but also his personal journey and connection to music and art.
We’ve started this interview a few weeks ago, it is crazy to look back and see how fast things have drastically changed for you, your family and your country – and all of us, in a different way. What are your thoughts in regards to what is happening?
Well, I never could imagine war will come to my country. But Ukraine is located on the merge of civilizations and cultures, so we have to make a choice where we belong to and, unfortunately, pay a high price for that. We want to be a democratic and liberal society, we want to contribute to modern culture with our still unexplored for western world folk roots, we want to live in freedom and respect with European nations. These values were always a death threat to our authoritarian neighbours. That’s why, we have to fight for them now and stand in the frontline. It’s the first time in history everybody feels united about the fact that we have to protect our freedom. So, me, my family and my friends are doing their best by being actively involved in the resistance in every corner of Ukraine and the World. We feel heartbroken, but courageous enough to fight for our existence.
The biggest hope in such a dark time comes from support of each other. We have to inspire ourselves to stand strong with heroic actions, Europeans should also keep inspiring us by showing their solidarity. Only this can help us go through it with hope in our hearts.
We would like to share a bit of your personal story. Can you tell us about your first musical memories?
Well, my musical story is a bit different than most DJs and artists coming from music environment. I was growing up in a small provincial town in the western Ukraine. In the early 2000s we didn’t have any access to quality music from national media there, which was still dominated by poor quality Russian pop music. Because of this informational blockade, I was thinking that I would never listen to music in my life. But then, when I was about 14, one of my friends gave me a CD with a random selection of music videos – from Linkin Park to Eminem. That’s how I discovered other musical genres. With the first access to the internet and mobile phones with infrared ports, I entered the age of musical self-education, digging hip hop, trance, rock music at the same time.
When I was 16, I went for the first gig in my life – it was a rave with Blank&Jones in Lviv. That was an absolutely stunning experience for me. So, I started going regularly to more electronic music festivals, happening in Ukrainian cities. It wasn’t easy to get there as an underage raver, but I always found some creative solutions to do that. After the revolution in Ukraine in 2014 I experienced the rise of underground techno culture in Kyiv and came to Berlin with a quite short-term, but intense musical background.
In recent years – especially since the pandemic hit – Ukraine had become a haven for DJs and ravers. How do you see the local scene and the impact that the nightlife tourism had in the country, or at least in Kyiv?
As I mentioned, I’ve experienced the rise of a new techno scene in my country. This has to do with the post-revolutionary spirit in Ukraine, where young people were the main drivers of the willingness of our country to escape the post-soviet heritage in culture and join the global stage as a young, hype and self-aware nation.
The spirit of change and rapid break with post-soviet culture helped many artists to shift their focus towards more experimental sound. The first raves in Kyiv were driven by the desire of keeping cultural life alive despite wartime isolation from the rest of the world. These raves became a major hit, because of inclusiveness, low prices, highest level of art-direction and amazing locations. The combination of these settings gave birth to a very dedicated scene, which attracted European media and guests to Kyiv.
Visiting Ukraine after 6 years in Berlin was making me proud because I’ve seen the scene in its heyday. Complex art-direction with the focus on rough underground and an insane amount of talented artists involved into the rebranding of Ukraine, as a new cool place to be, and is very attractive to European audiences. They come to enjoy the completely uncommercial side of music and inspire us to make our own version of the artistic underground even more diverse and established. This has been very positive on the social process inside the country and perception of Ukraine abroad.
I always felt a huge interest in my country from the people I was meeting. They were asking me about the scene, travel locations, urban culture, people, cuisine and were promising to go there and explore it in the near future, for many people it was a primary travel destination. This changed in the winter of 2022. When I tell people that I’m from Ukraine right now, the common reaction is usually “oh shit…I’m so sorry’’.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us!
this is the first interview of a series of conversations with artists from across all disciplines about life, art, ecology and the things that move us.