Electronic music has always had a strong foothold in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Like the youth in many other countries, the generation who grew up following the 1992 to 1995 Bosnian conflict wanted to party, dance, and have a good time.
Indeed part of the peacekeeping tactics of NATO’s SFOR (Stabilization Force) in the early 2000s in Bosnia involved the use of electronic music. It was believed that dance music was of benefit to the new emerging Bosnian society as it brought youth together. NATO’s SFOR set up a dance music focused radio station called Oksigen FM, and organised large-scale club events and parties across the region. In a country that was, at one time, so cruelly divided by race, religion, and irrevocable violence, dance music was used to heal it back together again.
Of course, you won’t find this written in NATO’s official history books on Bosnia. After all, how on earth do you explain that raves succeeded where diplomacy and politics so often fails? (The only reason I know all this is because I had a show on Oksigen FM from 2002 – 2004 and I helped SFOR organise club events in Bosnia.)
Sinisa Tamamovic is part of that Bosnian dance music generation. He was a resident DJ at Banja Luka’s Music Hall, which was at one time one of Bosnia’s most successful clubs. Since 2005 he has released techno on some of Eastern Europe’s most respected underground labels including Umek’s 1605 imprint. And last week Tamamovic saw his debut release on Dubfire’s SCI+TEC Digital Audio label, pushing him ever closer to the international techno stage.
I sat down with Sinisa Tamamovic to find out more about Bosnia’s club scene, and his ‘Waking Up’ EP for SCI+TEC.
You grew up in Banja Luka. What’s the electronic music scene like there now?
In general, the electronic music scene in Banja Luka is very small. In the past we had a stronger underground scene and we tried to keep it that way by bringing a lot of international DJs to our club nights. At this moment my organisation and I are more focused on international gigs and I hope some new kids will continue to keep the local scene alive and follow our steps. I’ve already moved to London with a lot of passion to bring my work into the big scene there.
You were a resident DJ at Banja Luka’s Music Hall. What were parties like there?
Music Hall was a great club for me. Unfortunately it has closed down now. I had so many great nights DJing there and I have many great memories. That place had a really raw underground vibe.
Techno has been a major force in Bosnia and in the region in general for many years. Why do you think techno works so well in your home country?
I don’t think that Bosnia is a techno country completely, but if you consider our recent difficult history, it would be hard to imagine our mainstream into happy beach house music. Following that time however, people wanted something a bit different and weird. And that was when electronic music reached its peak in Bosnia and we had a proper underground electronic scene.
Which DJs would you say are the most popular in Bosnia?
There are have been a lot of DJs who have come to play in Bosnia and people get to know about them if they come to play in their city, as every city has their own scene. I know for sure that Chris Liebing has been a big guest in Sarajevo on numerous occasions.
What about producers? In your opinion, which Bosnians are the most influential producers?
Mladen Tomic is definitely the producer that I most appreciate the most. I play his tracks and releases regularly in my sets.
You also run a label with Mladan, don’t you?
Yes. It’s called Night Light Records, and we use it to release music from techno to house, but we don’t ever release extreme hard techno or electro sounds.
We try to release a good range of styles and tracks that change just as much as DJ set might change. At this moment, we release music every two weeks on Night Light and we’re trying to secure it as an established and influential record label in electronic music. We started the label by releasing only on vinyl but now we press only about two records per year for the vinyl collector fans.
Your first release dropped in 2005. Thinking of that release and your 2011 releases, how has your sound changed?
Thinking back to my first release in 2005 my sound has developed to a higher standard and also my production has moved to 132 BPM to 125 BPM! My kick drum has become heavier too. I still follow techno and tech house rhythms as before, but I adjust my production to fit with the present times.
Let’s talk about your debut SCI+TEC release ‘Waking Up’. Explain the style you went for on this four tracker EP.
The ‘Waking Up’ EP fits somewhere in between minimal techno and tech house and that combination can be great for both techno and tech house DJs. This is the style I’ve tried to produce for the last couple of years, and I like to make this kind of music because it is quite difficult to find these days.
I use this type of groove in my sets. I would describe this EP as having funky basslines, techno kicks, minimal melodies, interesting FX and vocals. And at times, lots of drums!
Tell me more about those drums.
I like to make my techno sound more alive. I use an Alessis drum machine so that I can play drums, percussion and rides live in the studio, which gives more modulation to my tracks. On the other hand, I’m still a fan of keeping my tracks loopy. The combination of the two works very well together and that’s the key to my style at the moment.
‘Little People’ features quite a fun male vocal chant. Why did you decide to add this to the track?
I like to play with vocals. These are actually children’s voices, and they give a different kind of feeling – it sounds like ‘little people’ chanting.
‘The Drums’ features quite a few changes in intensity and pace.
‘The Drums’ track for me sounds really minimal techno. I tried to make a lot of variation by adding new combinations and changes and by adding some colour to the drum sounds. It starts off with minimal beats but towards the end it becomes more complex and powerful, which is exactly what I wanted to create.
What are your feelings on Dubfire, and how does it feel to be featured on his label?
There’s not much more to say about Dubfire than what has already been said. His sets and music just make the planet a more creative place. In my vinyl collection, I have Deep Dish records and also Dubfire’s own work. It’s great to see that one man can offer so much for the scene for all these years and still go ever higher and higher.
I’m really proud to be a part of the SCI+TEC family and I will give my maximum effort to bring even stronger tracks to SCI+TEC.