Due to the pandemic, most of us have been forced to give us certain activities. At the same time, a host of canny industry folks have managed to complete or even revitalise old projects — and with impressive results. One such project that’s attracted our attention lately is a beautiful compilation entitled Telurian – The Rominimal Experience, a collaborative effort between two genuine heavyweights of the Romanian underground, Zebra and Rebel Music. Indeed, when the story of Romania’s house and techno story is eventually told in great detail, rest assured we’ll be coming to these guys with our questions. Responsible for launching the careers of globally respected artists such as Parazitii and Raresh, the brands continue to be a byword for all that is quality when it comes to the Romanian underground. Behind both brands of course, are a couple of individuals with a rich story to tell. We had the honour to discuss the Telurian project with Gianiny Munteanu (a.k.a.“Kerosen”) and Dragos Hriscu (a.k.a.“Grishu”) about their new project “Telurian”, the beginnings of Zebra as well as their thoughts on the current state of electronic music. With over 30 years experience and having ran festivals, clubs, labels, shops and countless parties over that time, our conversation ran every bit as deep as the music itself…
Gianiny Munteanu (a.k.a.“Kerosen”) and Dragos Hriscu (a.k.a.“Grishu”) at Sunrise Hub studios in Bucharest
First of all, to introduce the audience to the topic, can you tell us a little bit about Zebra and Zebra Records?
Initially there was a legendary club in Bacau that operated in the early ’90s under the name “Target Underground Club” and was the main engine behind the development of a very dynamic urban cultural movement with rich activity, that we started together with some close friends. This overflow gave birth to Zebra Club in 1996, which functioned uninterruptedly until 2016, later turning into a larger project that includes Zebra Booking Agency, Zebra Events, Marathon Party, Fruits&Beats Streaming and the new Zebra Records label. All are now united under the Zebra Music umbrella whose artistic direction is the underground electronic music, especially rominimal, minimal, micro-house, experimental and club. Rominimal is the most important association because Zebra Club was the place where Raresh, Vid, Barac, Vincentiulian, Georgiana Lucaci, Zotist, Dubtil, Sebastian Eric and many others started and were residents.
Raresh and Rhadoo – the begginnings
All rights reserved Zebra.
How did the “Telurian” project start?
Last summer, following an accumulation of music capital (the live streaming project “Fruit&Beats”, the launch of our Youtube platform, the increase of the represented artists roster, the quality of our parties, etc.) the need for a brand presentation material emerged, but one that would matter for the community, to express in the best way possible both the music and the art from Romania, in a unique, modern and Romanian concept. The association with Rebel Music (a historical label in the national underground scene that started from the same cultural roots of Bacau in the early 90’s) was made through ReBelle Arte who came up with the idea of Telurian and the story of Tellurium. The rest was an on-going brainstorming and six months of teamwork.
What impact do you think this project will have on the rominimal scene, both nationally and internationally?
As a project, Telurian is quite special because it comes with several different approaches, from selection to marketing and from graphics to promotion, and some of them are one of a kind. Regardless of the level of performance of these approaches, they already create a measurable daily impact starting with the feedback received from the public and ending with the collaboration proposals, which are mostly international – a pleasant surprise beyond the flattering aspect, for it says much about the impression made by Telurian in the world. In fact, most orders for both Digipacks editions are from abroad where the public immediately appreciated our artistic approach, including the music and the graphic concept. For example, an impact of the physical product is the visual one because the market consists almost exclusively of digital and vinyls, so the sensation created by the Digipack CD format as well as the artwork in which the material is presented makes it immediately interesting through uniqueness and artistic originality. Not to mention the gram of pure Tellurium framed in a special lenticular resin on the frontcover of the Super Deluxe edition, which is accompanied by a 12 pages booklet and a huge high-end quality poster delivered in a specific tube, all these products being numbered for the collectors. And related to music, the impact is given by the architecture of the tracklist, which passes elegantly and superlatively through all the areas of what constitutes “The Romanian Sound”, known colloquially as “rominimal”. Without compendium claims and aware that it would have taken five more CDs to cover at least our list of favorite artists, Telurian is still as representative as possible for the current scene, whatever your criteria might be. It is the kind of musical product that can be listened to by both veteran fans as well as by those who first heard this music yesterday, its lenght (three full CDs) and concept making it comprehensive and influent.
This is the first compilation on CD with minimal music produced by Romanian artists. Do you think that CDs will be in vogue again?
CDs as a musical medium will never be mainstream again but I think that – at the level of collecting and storing music in physical format – one can expect a small and resuscitative use due to the special old-school-flavoured vintage yet charmy vibration but especially for the physical size of music as a product, the fact that you can flip through a booklet opposite to the coldness of the digital world, the very act of inserting a CD in a player or that you have at home a special shelf with CDs where you “keep” your music. There is a pleasant feeling, beyond any collector’s vanity, to give your passion for music this joy of a physical medium (vinyl, CD, audio cassette, VHS, DVD, tapes, etc.) and there are many who appreciate it. The digital and virtual trend is irreversible but there will always be people who will look for CDs.
Do you want to involve foreign artists in the Telurian project for future releases?
Rominimal & micro-house music is an international thing, but it seemed normal to us to have a Romanian-only tracklist on the first Zebra Records product, for two reasons: firstly because the basic idea of a labels’s record debut is to present its momentary roster of own artists who in our case are exclusively Romanians and secondly because rominimal remains, in essence, the first style of electronic music associated mainly with Romania, at a level of international collective consciousness. But there is no specific rule for future projects related to the nationality of artists, especially since among them are even Romanians living abroad. So anything is possible, what matters is the music and the story behind a creation.
How Romanian is Rominimal nowadays?
Rominimal is more of a colloquial term than an exact definition of a micro phenomenon in the macro family of electronic music, which was somehow rooted in the Romanian underground of the 2000s. Regardless of its roots (minimalist tech) or influences (Ricardo Villalobos & co) no one can deny that both the bulk and the main core of the style has a Romanian consistency, so much that more recently it was nicknamed as “The Romanian Sound” and rightly so (although the latter is a term with a wider radius). This new thing seems fabulous to us because it represents a well-deserved awareness for the vivid underground music scene in post-revolutionary Romania, and in general for Romanian music as it is seen from abroad. From a broader perspective, it is an almost historical chance for Romanian artists to identify themselves and be identified with a global music movement whose name begins with “ro” from Romania, even if we refer only to marketing . Although we as nation have excelled in time in many musical genres, never in the modern history of music has there been such an association between Romania and a certain music current, and in no case at this level. All this is happening while in the diaspora there are still many Romanians who stigmatically perpetuate the acultural phenomenon of manele, even if in the country that is in a fairly clear fade-out.
What else can we expect from Zebra and Telurian in the future?
From Telurian you can expect a rominimal festival, which will bear the same name and will be an in-person event. Hoping that the pandemic will calm down soon, we want it to happen in early October and to last for two days. Otherwise, Zebra Music is in full swing to promote Telurian, but it also has an agenda of new recordings, releases and online parties. To know about them, we recommend you to follow us on social media and to visit our website www.zebramusic.net, where you can also listen and buy our Digipacks and merchandise.
Published by Matei – Daniel Rotaru
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