Pristina’s ‘Hapësira’ rebirths society from underground

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 31, 2019 10:30

Pristina’s ‘Hapësira’ rebirths society from underground

Story Highlights

  • Now, it’s common knowledge that music can make statements surpassing political and ideological divisions. For the 2015-founded NGO, techno does exactly that, while managing to represent, symbolically, an entire generation of post-war youth.

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By Sidonja Manushi

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photo by: Anyla Ademaj // Boiler Room Kosovo 2019

Pristina is a force to be reckoned with.

In addition to many of its native musicians making international headlines, its steadily growing underground techno scene strongly testifies to that.

“It’s not an aesthetically beautiful city,” a Spanish friend who’d visited long before I did said, “but there’s such a powerful vibe to it. You feel as if things are happening.”

Words along those lines have become a common description for the second youngest capital in the world, while their truth comes alive when one enters the Rilindja Warehouse (Rebirth, in Albanian), to attend a Hapësira (Space) event.

Now, it’s common knowledge that music can make statements surpassing political and ideological divisions. For the 2015-founded NGO, techno does exactly that, while managing to represent, symbolically, an entire generation of post-war youth.

“What brought Hapësira into life was lack of space for youth, in terms of showing their abilities and their creative mind,” Arbnor Dragaj, one of its co-founders, told Tirana Times.

Conceived by a handful of strong-willed individuals whose core-value is freedom of expression and creation of a space that will not judge anyone but instead will serve as a platform or a getaway out of daily stress and life’s hardship, Hapësira does more than destroy the physical barriers limiting the youth – it pushes them to think outside their own mental boxes.

Even symbolically, this is a fitting theme. The Rilindja Warehouse, where I first came to know the Hapësira community, has almost accompanied the NGO step-by-step, becoming host to some of their most noteworthy events.

This relationship was crowned on Hapësira’s 15th party, when the international broadcaster Boiler Room arrived at the venue and enabled millions around the world to enjoy the performances of DJs such as Anthony Linell and Umwelt, and local rising DJs the Balkans are no stranger to, such as Toton and Hapësira’s very own, one of its co-founders, Uran B.  

In the past, the warehouse used to house the printing process of a number of classic texts in Albanian, as well as the first Albanian newspaper in then-Yugoslavia, ever. This cultural past adds a poignant meaning to the post-industrial landscape which times and time again fills with techno sounds, and separates Hapësira from your average party-organizer.

Techno, like literature, like painting, reinvents the generation by offering it a space where “youth can dance away its troubles.”

In a four-year span, the Hapësira community evolved from serving 200-300 to almost 1500 people and its events inspired a number of other organizations to act with social benefit in mind.

“In our perspective the greatest collaboration is when everyone is giving the best out of themselves to the community/audience they serve, as a result each of us (as a puzzle) complete the bigger picture,” Arbnor said.

On top of the ever-growing number of dancers attending Hapësira’s event from all around the region, the enormous support can also be viewed from the help going towards the capital’s vulnerable communities in goods, which Hapësira collects from attendees in exchange for discounted event tickets.

“SRF initiative along with bigger crowds have bloomed, from 50kg goods collected in first event, now up to 500kg. This also brings a totally different spirit to the party itself, as people are not coming only to have fun for themselves, but they also lift the mood and enrich the tables of the families in need, all this making the events more cheerful,” describes Arbnor.

Currently only available during their events, the SRF is expected to live on a weekly basis as the NGO establishes itself permanently.

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photo by Anyla Ademaj

Ironically enough, what Hapësira does for Pristina’s estranged, isolated youth is a lesson for the entire region which, although relatively peaceful for the last two decades, lacks in what it offers its youth and consequently, in what it takes back from them in energy and creativity. 

“In the Albanian language, Rilindja means Renaissance or Rebirth, which is exactly what we need as a society.That shall definitely come from the underground. When we first created Hapësira, which came out of need for a free space to empower our passion, Rilindja was also there at its heart, because we needed to be reborn, and where best than Rilindja, which used to enlighten our society through books and inform them through newspapers in the crucial times for our people. Our hope is to awaken the youth, to inspire them to think independently and freely outside the box. Music – techno – and industrial spaces such as Rilindja, have the power to intrigue those thoughts and hopefully will also inspire action,” Arbnor concludes.

In a region where culture, art and education is anything but a priority, it remains to the people on the ground to make a difference and awaken a passionate response in those who have the power within them to make a change. Dancing to techno beats among strangers who share a like-minded vision of change and evolution is one of the purest, most genuine feelings one can experience and one which Hapësira is pioneering.

The future foresees turning Hapësira into a Cultural Alternative Centre which can serve the community in many additional ways. Once settled into a permanent home, Hapësira plans to extend its activities in various events, not only in entertainment but infotainment as well, while also looking to bring these events outside of Kosovo too.

The immediate future, on the other hand, is expecting one of the most legendary techno names inside Rilindja on June 8 – Zak Khutoretsky, also known as DVS1, will be visiting Pristina to once again make history in the way one country’s underground scene is establishing itself from the rubble.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 31, 2019 10:30