Robert Balkan Soko Beats
Balkan Beats (Robert Soko), Balkan kHans, DJ Dharba и DJ Phoenix are the artists going to warm up Sofia for the upcoming Beglika fest starting on 21st of August. Just before the party we decided to ask several questions to the Balkan patriot Robert Soko. Born and raised in Bosna, Robert Soko is making Balkan music in Berlin more than 20 years, listen carefully to him and be prepared for his Balkan Beats
Anna: You are one of the first Balkan Beats pioneers in Western Europe who managed to turn your music into a new style. How do you feel now, more than 15 years since your first Balkan parties in Berlin? Do you feel that it is not so innovative to mix Balkan beats with electronic as it used to be in 1993 or the audience is still interested in such? 🙂
Robert Soko: When I started back in 1993, the term „Balkan“ was only used to mention negative sad events, such as the war, refugees, massacres and poverty. So when I called my parties and my style „BalkanBeats“, it was out of irony as much as nostalgia. That was in 2000 and it took a good 10 years for the term to become a genre. I am truly happy that this term participated to a more positive image of the Balkans. In a way, it is funny how this term is over-used nowadays, in the music industry and elsewhere: „Balkan-this“, „Balkan-that“. I think this overload of „Balkan-something parties“ explains why the audience may come across as less interested. In a way, the term has lost its meaning and authenticity with it. This is the price to pay for being so successful. I have regular monthly parties in Berlin, London and Paris and yearly parties in Mexico City and Tokyo so no, from the crowds I see, it does not look like the audience is less interested!
Anna: Could you please introduce BalkanBeats for the all the readers of DJambore.com ? How did you start?
Robert Soko: Back in the mid-1990s, a lot of refugees arrived in Berlin. We were all from the same generation, catapulted in another foreign planet and watching from afar the destruction of everything we had ever known. These parties were almost a therapy. We would all be together, like in Yugoslavia, no distinction, and play the tunes of our generation. The audience soon expanded beyond this group of refugees, and the music evolved to incorporate contemporaneous sounds. That’s the story. Then the audience expanded outside of Berlin, and more and more producers and festivals contacted me to play elsewhere in Europe and in the world. Slowly, other DJs started playing the same kind of music with a different name. Now my name has become a genre! It’s all been a bit of a crazy journey, really. I am looking forward to the future, though. I do not think the Balkan Beats movement can run out of breath, because the music of an entire region of the world can never run out of breath! It is for us, DJs, to know where to dig out the gold and refine it to fit the ears of our global audience.
Anna: Do you know the Bulgarian Kosta Kostov and his Balkan Express. He is a part of our team and he also experiments with Balkan beats in Cologne mostly… Do you know some other
Balkan born artists who are spreading Balkan rhythms all around the world? Do you have any faves among them?
Robert Soko:I have heard of Kosta Kostov and his doings and I am looking forward to meeting him in person. Talking of innovative artists who bring new energy from the Balkans, one should definitely mention Dubioza Kolektiv from Bosnia. And that has nothing to do with the fact that we come from the same town! Their music is great, lively, their lyrics engaged and punchy and they have reached enough maturity to face not only their large audience in the Balkans, but also globally. It should go without saying, but iconic musicians such as Goran Bregović, Fanfare Ciocarlia, the Marković’s and Mahala Rai Banda remain a great source of inspiration and keep producing really good tunes…Rona Hartner has also launched a good album with DJ Tagada and I am looking forward to host them in the Lido in October. In terms of DJs, I love working with Goran Potkonjak and Balkan Karavan for parties in Zurich. In fact, I’ll play there for New Years Eve!
Anna: You’ve been living abroad for so long time, I am sure you miss Bosna. But have thought about going back home? What do you think you were going to do if you were not making parties?
Robert Soko:I love Bosnia, and more generally the Balkans, and that soil will always be my greatest source of inspiration. I go back at least once a year, going around and feeling what is new. But I left when it was Yugoslavia, and since then, I have been a Berliner. Berlin is great because it gives you the space to be whoever you are, and to re-invent yourself. This is why so many people come to live here. I may go back to Bosnia one day and produce Rakija (traditional plum liquor), but for now, I am grounded in Berlin.
Anna: You are going to play on the 18th of June at club Majmunarnika for the Beglika pre-party together with our friends from Balkan kHans. Did you have the chance to listen to some of their mixes of beatboxing and Balkan music?
Robert Soko: Yes, and I am looking forward to see them live!
Anna: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “jamboree”?
Robert Soko: It sounds like Djembe, the original African beatmaker.