Bassiani - Being One With The Bass In Tbilisi
Building a strongly LGBTQ+ supportive Techno temple in an overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox Christian environment can not only be seen as a provocative but a brave move as well. Since 2014, Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, has been home to one of the largest Techno clubs in the whole country and the world.
Located below the concrete structure of Tbilisi's largest sports venue, the Dinamo Arena, near the banks of the Mtkvari River, the club Bassiani was named after the 13th century battle of Basian, between the Kingdom of Georgia and the Sultanate of Rum. The literal meaning of its name in Georgian means "one with the bass."
The story of Bassiani dates back to 2013, when co-founders Zviad Gelbakhiani, Tato Getia, and Naja Orashvili held a rave in an unfinished and abandoned concert hall in the shape of worm-like structures that people like to call "the tubes." This party was considered the actual breakthrough, the first night of pure techno in Tbilisi. A year later, Bassiani was born.
It might have started as a warehouse party, but in 2014, the club moved into the stadium, and from that point on, it only kept growing. Being acquaintances with the director of the national football team indeed helped the Bassiani crew claim the location. However, it was the quality of the parties and the passion of the organizers that kept attracting local visitors and Techno tourists from all around the world.
It didn't take too long for Bassiani to become a true definition of a 21st-century Techno temple, a symbol of political rupture in post-Soviet Georgia and a stimulant for progressive political changes in a conservative society.
Bassini's cultural significance
A series of mass protests in Tbilisi in 2018 turned into anti-government demonstrations on May 12, the same year, when police raided the nightclubs Bassiani and the two owners, and approximately 60 people got arrested. Protesters gathered in front of the Parliament building and called for drug policy reform, illustrating the increasing societal divide around culture and war topics, especially among the youth.
Being previously connected to the White Movement, Bassiani was already a big part of the political processes in Tbilisi. Eventually, the raids closed Bassiani's doors for several weeks, threatening the business. Luckily, the club got back on its feet.
"There is a really interesting process happening," said Gelbakhiani in an interview back in 2019. "We are a really repressed people after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan and Armenia are still authoritarian, recovering from these regimes. I hope that one day in Baku, they will have a festival and invite Azerbaijanis and Armenians – even though they have this conflict. We see the techno scene as a tool to unite these people."
Unfortunately, the pandemic that started in 2020 forced the club into a two-year-long shutdown. However, Bassiani reopened on December 17, 2021, proving its resilience through a series of unfortunate events.
Aside from playing an essential role in changing Georgia's anti-drug laws, in the relatively young and unusual Georgian clubbing scene, Bassiani plays a significant cultural role as well, providing a safe space for the local and international LGBTQ+ community.
Partying at Bassiani is undoubtedly a unique experience, but still, some people like to draw parallels between this club and Berlin's Berghain. Like in Berghain and many other Techno clubs, photography is banned on Bassiani's dancefloor, and bouncers put stickers over cellphones at the entrance.
Once you get past the strict security, a dark maze of underground stairs and corridors will lead to an abandoned swimming pool that Bassiani decided to transform into their main dancefloor. With a capacity to accommodate around 1,200 people, Bassiani is the largest Techno venue in the country that is divided into two rooms, both having distinct personalities and radiating completely different atmospheres.
The first one is Bassiani's main and vast concrete room, characterized by mesmerizing lights and a top-quality sound system, while the smaller room called "Horoom" is located upstairs. This room, named after a traditional dance, is a cozier and more intimate space that hosts a series of LGBTQ parties called "Horoom Nights." You can certainly expect to encounter some questionable things and various sexual activities in Bassiani's dark rooms, but also, there is a smoking area where people can simply relax or take a nap.
The sole idea of having a place dedicated to the queer culture in a heavily Orthodox Christian country has been attracting both local and international performers and visitors, as well as international media attention. As of 2017, the club has eight resident artists - Function, Hamatsuki, HVL, Kancheli, Kvanchi, NDRX, Zitto, and ZESKNEL. No wonder Bassiani is one of the largest of Tbilisi's modern attractions.
With its unmissable cultural significance, striking venue, and constantly impressive lineups, Bassiani is a Techno temple that is a must-visit spot for Techno tourists from all around the world.