Being Lithuanian In A Scene Where Nationality Is Not Important
Eurovision song contest is such a big deal in Lithuania it’s beyond hilarious. Every year the self-delegated crew is trying to find a magic formula, sometimes heavily infused with foreign tips and tricks, and then they lose in the political farce once called a song contest.
One of the reasons it’s so important for us to take part in this contest is because Lithuanian music is very Lithuanian in terms of its reach. We haven’t had any successful bands that’d be interesting for a decent amount of people abroad. Bands, I repeat, bands. We’ve definitely had – and keep having – great internationally acclaimed artists. And some of them are musicians.
Welcome to the world of electronic dance music and step onto the dancefloor, ladies and gentlemen. This is another world and it’s doing quite well, even if it’s not always presenting itself as part of Lithuania.
The main reason for the – moderate, maybe – success is the national identity is not so important in terms of dance music culture in general. In fact, electronic music has always been known as border-crossing and identity-mixing rather than focusing on accent-free English guitar standards. The business model and promotional schemes are totally different, more indie than major.
Of course Lithuania hasn’t presented the second Ellen Allien or Avicii to the world. But fresh and unique talent from the electronic music circuit has already reached more than the indie bands who are basically just copies of copies of copies. And it’s usually the result of hard work by those who believe in Lithuanian music. Or good music in general.
Funnily enough, those Lithuanians who have actually achieved something above zero internationally, don’t look Lithuanian from the first sight. An italo disco producer Andrejus Kurkinas, for example, plays quite often in the Netherlands and has released a vinyl in a Dutch label. And his artistic name is... Mario Moretti. „I came up with that after submitting my demo for an international contest and nobody there could pronounce my real name or my alias at that time, Endis VSG. Mario sounds Italian and I make Italian-influenced music, so there’s a link there. It also creates a certain legend which always helps“, – comments Andrejus.
Mario Basanov is definitely the busiest electronic music DJ producer from Lithuania. Having started off with Silence label founder Vidis in 2009 and released his solo album in a British label a couple of years later, in 2013 only he played in South Asia, Australia and many European countries. His real name, however, is very Lithuanian – Marijus Adomaitis. When asked about his quite Slavic-sounding „artist surname“ Mario explained he had always had plans about making it outside of Lithuania. And he has listened to a lot of bossanova in his life. I asked Mario if people abroad seeing his name ever thought he’s Russian and not Lithuanian but he explained they still do no matter what you’re called. Especially in distant locations – and they can’t be blamed.
Miša Skalskis, a laureate of International Philosophy Olympiad, now studying sonology in the Hague, is only 18 and he has just released a solo album on an international label. He is also a member of Without Letters, one of the most interesting – locally, for many reasons – Lithuanian post rock bands. Miša agrees that 96WRLD, his solo project, has more chances mostly because of the cultural economy.
“An electronic music producer is responsible for all the ideas and their adaptations himself, he doesn’t need to have a proper studio and it’s possible to create a miracle just by clicking your mouse. A band needs more investment and human resources”. In general, Miša says, Lithuania has no music industry at all, and only electronic music producers can actually do something without it. “Foreign market does not need Lithuanian bands. Live acts are a headache and a risky investment”, – the artist sums up.
“It cuts both ends. On the one hand, times of isolation are long over – the internet is a guarantee that no more purist genres and scenes such as Kingston, Detroit or Sheffield will emerge. These days it's either good music or not regardless where you're based. On the other hand, the decisions of what is cool or not, hot or not are still made in the capitals where all the real and symbolic power is concentrated”, – says the above-mentioned Vidis, a full time DJ, producer and promoter of two labels (Silence and Best Kept Secret) who has released a Lithuanian electronica compilation on Get Physical, one of the most important German labels. That’s why he has to go to cities like Berlin, London and Amsterdam on a regular basis to meet artists, agents, distributors, club representatives, PR specialists to stay – and keep Lithuanian talent – on the radar.
“I think it’s still necessary to belong somewhere”, – adds Mark Splinter, a Brit who has spent most of his 7 years in Lithuania promoting our music here and abroad (in fact, yet another compilation of Lithuanian electronica, a soundtrack of the movie „We Will Riot“ selected by Mark Splinter, has been released worldwide). For him, a “Lithuanian” sound is important from a commercial point of view. “If people start talking about Lithuanian producers then it makes an umbrella which many artists can shelter under. Journalists can write about a great scene instead of certain individuals. Solidarity and collaboration is the only way“.
If one could add something to the many ideas, names and facts mentioned above, it could only be the appreciation of what we have down here. Off the beaten path and off the mass media, maybe, but the Lithuanian electronic music scene is doing great. We are doing great. Come join us, in Lithuania or abroad.
The article was written for a new international magazine for Lithuanian diaspora PASSPORT. The first issue is still being prepared.
D.D. 2004 - 2016
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