The famous Bulgarian oracle Baba Vanga foretold many things including the break-up of the Soviet Union, but she supposedly never foresaw the growing interest in Eastern European electronic music. Many artists of Eastern Euopean origin are now becoming well-established in the club scene and some cutting-edge experimental labels are starting to become more widely recognized, such as Moscow’s Hyperboloid Records.
Nevertheless, you could say that Easterndaze and its record label Baba Vanga foresaw this; the label has been focusing on music coming from the Eastern Bloc before it was cool. It was founded in 2010 by Lucia Udvardyová and Peter Gonda, who met in 2008 when they got offered a radio show on Resonance FM. “At that time, music media and awareness was strongly Anglo-American. We had zero knowledge of what's happening in Serbia or Romania, and we weren't interested in some fossilised ethno projects. So, we set out on our first music research trips in 2010, traveling and interviewing through six countries in six months.”
Since then, Easterndaze operates as a blog, runs a radio show - Východiska - on Prague’s Radio Wave - and organizes events, the biggest one being Easterndaze x Berlin in 2016. Lucia and Peter continue researching music by traveling, their most recent trip being Ukraine where they met plenty of inspiring musicians and initiatives. I’m quite impressed by how Lucia and Peter go beyond the luxury of browsing online from a sofa and actually get out there, exploring unknown cities, meeting people and attending events. “Things take place in real life, at events, and encounters. It's direct and immediate, there's no middle man. These are experiences which remain, the Soundcloud URLs won't,” explains Lucia. But, that doesn’t mean that they won’t also discover artists on the internet: “Often either friends send us tips, or we trawl through social media. Baba Vanga was never meant to be an all-encompassing, comprehensive overview of what's happening in Eastern Europe, musically speaking. It's more a subjective, personal snapshot of our findings and our musical tastes.”
Before starting Baba Vanga, Easterndaze already released a compilation on AudioTong Recordings in 2011. But the final push for founding their own imprint came in 2013 when Lucia discovered the self-titled album by Střed Světa which she and Peter immediately loved. “At the same time, we already planned to start a label to release the artists from the region we found doing amazing music without anyone noticing. It was not only that they were invisible in a way, but also that they were doing music that was absolutely cutting-edge - for example Somnoroase Păsărele and the dozens of Soundcloud profiles they were maintaining at that time,” describes Peter the beginnings.
Střed Světa is indeed an extraordinary record, playing with industrial, electronic sounds and using interesting techniques such as fast-forwarding tape. According to Peter, this record and the Romanian project Somnoroase Păsărele had the biggest influence on the overall sound of Baba Vanga. “Ratkiller and Maciej Maciagowski fit this pattern very well too. These musicians are trying to express their ideas about music in very idiosyncratic ways, avoiding genres and genre cliches altogether and forming their own unique language in the process. I think this is what we are looking for.” Some artists on the label are formerly visual (Somnoroase Păsărele) or multimedia artists (Laura Luna), yet their records show an incredible talent for composing avant-garde sound textures, abrasive rhythms and hints of nostalgic melodies. After time, Baba Vanga released several artists from non-European countries such as Japan (CVN – Concrete Virus Nu) and the UK (Calum Gunn – Clipe). “The majority of our releases are still from EEU countries, but we don’t think too hard about it and are happy to include people from various regions in our roster as long as we love their music”, highlights Peter.
Most of the artists do come from countries such as Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia. Since Lucia and Peter travel through these countries and are in touch with many artists, event organizers, radio hosts and other professionals from local scenes, I’m interested in similarities and differences of the independent music scenes from these EEU countries. When it comes to common aspects in terms of the DIY scenes, Lucia names issues connected to financing. “For instance, these days, the public support for culture is much better in Slovakia, where even DIY spaces get funding for programmes such as Fuga. In Hungary, the situation is completely different and even established festivals such as UH Fest do not regularly receive public funding. And in Ukraine, music shows are self-financed from the entrance which therefore tends to be relatively high.”
Yet Easterndaze and Baba Vanga are not discouraged by the volatile financial conditions, and keep travelling, releasing, supporting and organizing. The next event is a two-day-long Fog Fest in Budapest on 23rd January, which will showcase some of Baba Vanga’s artists including Új Bála and Lanuk. Of course, we can also look forward to some new releases in 2018 which are kept secret for now. There’s nothing left to do than keep your third eye on the label and get older tape releases in the meantime, either online via Bandcamp and Experimedia, or by picking up physical copies in selected shops!