HEX Interview: A close approach to the Georgian scene with Johan Axander from KHIDI

Georgia does not own a common Techno scene, but probably one of the most energetic and transcendental in Europe. We get closer to it thanks to KHIDI.

The date with Khidi will be the last of our Off Week marathon. For 12 hours, we’ll bring The Garage of The Bass Valley closer to the Georgia scene, closer to Khidi. This is one of the most important clubs on the Georgian and therefore European Techno scene. And yes, Georgia has become an important spot in our industry in the last year. Fortunately, or unfortunately. And for sad reasons. But, who knows, maybe this is the beginning of a road to a better future. We discussed it with Johan Axander, a member of KHIDI.


May 12th. It was a Saturday. And what a dramatic Saturday… How did you live it there in Georgia?

It all happened after midnight. A court order forced Bassiani and Café Gallery to close together with Khidi and Mtkvarze Club. So, in total, 4 clubs were closed for some weeks, but only two of them got raided: Bassiani and Café Gallery. News about the raids spread fast on social media and local news, which led to people gathering in front of both clubs. We were at Khidi when we learned of the raids via postings on Facebook and phone calls from our acquaintances. As soon as we heard the news, we closed Khidi. All our staff, including ourselves, were later present in front of Bassiani and Café Gallery, which in the following day led to the gathering of people in front of the parliament.


Did you feel like that could also happen to Khidi?

At first, we were in a state of shock. It was totally unexpected and difficult to believe. It was when the first photos and videos appeared on Facebook when we fully understood the magnitude of the raids. At this point we got very nervous and feared that the police would come to us as well, yes.


What about the media and the society? How did they react?

The media, national and international, covered raids extensively, and overall, they stood behind the clubbing community. The media reported on the excessive force used by the police, which unfortunately is not uncommon here in Georgia when attempting to disperse gatherings or manage confrontations.  Even for a large part of the conservative population of Georgia’s society, the force displayed by the police disturbed even them. Both society and the media criticised the government for its handling of the situation, particularly on the second day of the protests, when right-wing supporters made a counter protest. Instead of dispersing the right-wing protesters, the police transported the protesters from the clubbing community away from the Parliament. The failure of the Government to anticipate the domestic and international reactions of such disproportionate and excessive use of force undermined the clubber’s community confidence in the police.


Everybody here thinks about Georgian clubs much more since that happened, but your scene has always been an important actor in the European scene. Why Georgia? What makes you special?

One of the most appealing elements of Tbilisi’s clubbing scene is the authenticity and aesthetics of the clubs spread out over various industrial settings. The clubs in Tbilisi offer very unique locations which are reminiscent of the rave and techno parties of London in the 1980s and Berlin in the 1990s. The clubbing scene in Tbilisi has a serious content as well as a unique aesthetic and authenticity. Clubbing is a form of social activism to improve Georgia to become a society based on equality and respect for differences. A large part of Georgia’s society lives according to traditional conventions with orthodox customs and old-fashioned narratives stipulating gender roles. The clubbing scene offers a safe space for people who break from these conventions and narratives, where they can express freely their identity and beliefs without interference and judgement. As such as the clubs force people outside of the clubbing community to reflect on their identity which often have led to a public dialogue and increased visibility of minority groups, particularly from the LGBTI community, that otherwise would not be heard or seen. The secret to Tbilisi’s scene is therefore its fascinating space, where social forces are at work to change a country. By coming to Tbilisi and spend a night at Khidi, you contribute to the realization of our ambition to make people better and more open-minded inhabitants in the country we live and love.


In your showcase with us during the OFF Week, we’ll have Boston 168, Phase Fatale and Stanislav Tolkachev, but you also count on your resident artists list with quality names such as Ancient Methods, DJ Boring, P.E.A.R.L., Regal, Shlømo, Sevda or Vatican Shadow. What a list…

It has certainly not been easy, and it still is not easy, to achieve what we are doing. From the start, we knew Khidi had the aesthetic and sonic appeal to attract the quality names, but these factors are not enough. You also need to build up trust with agents, artists and their managers as well as the crowd. Today we have very good relationships with artists and agents who trust us in that the artists will have an overall positive experience. From the beginning we have strived towards a personal engagement with the artists at all levels of Khidi, starting from us as the owners of Khidi to the stage managers and bar staff. This has paid off well and could explain why today we have so many quality artists as a big part of our residency program.


Also, the female collective has become so strong in the Georgian scene.

Lots of Georgian women form part of the social force to bring about a positive change in Georgia. This includes not only the clubbing scene but also the civil society sector, where many are prominent figures in driving the social changes that we can see are happening today. Again, it comes down to the link between clubbing and social activism which is strong in Georgia. Women fight for equality and emancipation from conservative conventions and the clubs form part of the engine to achieve this goal. By taking on the stewardship of a club a woman can change her own life and the life of many other women who share the same beliefs in equality and a just society.

Everyone has a role in promoting women in the clubbing scene: journalists, artists, promoters and owners. Women in the clubbing scene need more media coverage; club owners need to actively promote and recruit women in senior and leadership positions; club promoters should have more female artists in the line-up; and whenever possible clubs should provide opportunities for young and aspiring artists to perform, such as Khidi’s ‘New Faces’ program which comes from Tresor. The more women we can get early into the clubbing scene, the more will later form part of it as either an artist or manager where they can bring about the change.


And now… Barcelona!

Yes! This one will be our 2nd time in Barcelona, but the first time to experience and explore the raving environment. We are super excited!


What would you say to any HEX follower about Georgia, Tbilisi and Khidi? There’s a lot to discover there…

By visiting Tbilisi and Khidi, a foreigner gets a chance to experience clubbing in perhaps a different form that he or she is used to. It can help people discovering a new value of clubbing that they can bring back home, a value which may inspire them to become involved in social activism for improving the world we inhabit.


KHIDI x HEX Off Week Showcase is on tonight, Saturday July 20th at The Garage of The Bass Valley, Barcelona.

Interview by Paco Cavaller