It is difficult nowadays, in the European club scene, to come across someone who is not familiar with the name of Bassiani. Bassiani is one of the top clubs in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. And, fortunately, or unfortunately for them, the most famous one.
Bassiani became a topic of conversation and an object of support at an international level in May 2018. That spring night, Georgian police raided the club shortly after midnight, catching the clubbers in the middle of the dancefloor in a violent manner and arresting the directors for no apparent reason.
Many were the artists who sent strength and support to Bassiani: Ben Klock, Dixon or Nina Kraviz, some of the most notorious. Tbilisi’s clubber community went out on the streets and the capital of Georgia started to appear on our socials’ timelines for having a rave going on in front of the Parliament, in the middle of the Rustaveli Avenue (the most important one in the city).
Bassiani, assaulted by an armed man a year and a half later
Bassiani didn’t need a lot of time before he was reopened. Normality was restored until the club under Georgia’s National Football Stadium suffered another severe moral blow. This one, much more fortuitous, but also much more dangerous.
We woke up one Sunday with this sad news: “A man has assaulted Bassiani with a firearm and three members of the club’s security crew have been hospitalized. No one was hurt.” “Bassiani again?” we wondered. We talked to VL, a journalist from the country who specializes in the clubbing scene. He told us the story in detail:
A 39-year-old man attended Bassiani, invited by one of the DJs who were performing that night. Apparently, the guy drank too much and decided to go over to the DJ booth to ask the DJ playing at the time to play a song by the rapper 2pac. Obviously, the DJ didn’t agree. The man began to get upset and show violent attitudes, which led Bassiani’s security to kick him out of the club. The guy stormed home, grabbed his Winchester shotgun, went back to Bassiani and started shooting towards the entrances. Three members of security were hit, but everyone’s okay.
The story behind the assailant
“Since the police raided Bassiani in 2018, they’ve always been hanging around when the club is open. Those of us who usually go dancing don’t like that, but the other day it was key to avoiding a disaster”, says KF, a regular at the club. As she explains, the police immediately arrested the attacker, and the severity of Georgian laws made all of us augur a bad future for him. At least at first. But that’s not the end of the story… We return to the journalist VL:
This man did something similar in 2010. He went to a drugstore to buy medicines with psychotropic effects and when they refused to sell them to him, he went for the shotgun and went back to the place threatening while shooting in the air. On that occasion, the police immediately released him. His father donates large amounts of money to the ruling party in the country and this, unfortunately, was key for them to give him amnesty. On this occasion, he didn’t shoot in the air, but against three innocent people. People say he could get more than 20 years… or life imprisonment.
A few days later, the Georgian clubber community was putting its hands on its head. The Prosecutors issued a statement specifying that the accused “was carrying a hunting weapon, which is not on the list of illegal weapons”. The prosecution, therefore, requested his immediate release until the trial, a request which the judge didn’t grant. The charge of “attempted bodily harm and vandalism” still stands.
Our friends are imprisoned for calling the Minister an asshole and this bastard who tried to kill three people is not considered a criminal. That’s how our selective justice works.
An underlying problem in Georgia
“People have an exaggeratedly big ego here. When someone is insulted, problems always happen” says KF. “They carry it intrinsically in their nationalism and hypermasculinity”, she stands.
Nevertheless, bad stories bring always something good: “At least, this is causing that -again- in Georgia people are talking about the serious problems that this society is facing and the big changes that must be done for the good of all. This was an exaggerated and casual event, but it happens every day, whether it’s domestic violence or street fighting.”
Naja Orashvili is one of the owners and directors of Bassiani. A few hours after what happened, she released a statement on social networks. These are the most prominent sentences:
Three members of the security team were hit. One got surgery. All three are in stable condition. (…) According to official reports, the assailant was only under the influence of alcohol. (…) I cannot describe the courage of our team in defending Bassiani and his people. It is this reward in the form of love that gives us the strength to stand together and fight against violence. (…) Our doors have always been open to different social groups because we believe in change. We have seen many people radically change their views on life. That is why we created this space. (…) Finally, I am sure that, given the current situation in Georgia, where events of this kind are constantly taking place, this story will not sound scary, but it will serve as the umpteenth proof that spaces like ours are the safest and freest in the country, so they need protection and security.
Another part involved is Vodkast Records, the main record store in Tbilisi. The DJ who invited the assailant to the party is part of Vodkast’s team. The store was quick to react by publicly announcing its complete rejection of the attacker, who they say “took advantage of an invitation that, as you can imagine, was never malicious”.
Clubs and techno music bring hope
The situation in Tbilisi, and in Georgia in general, is tense. Cases of violence, ego, homophobia and sexism are repeated almost daily. The parties in power, influenced by the Orthodox Church and also by the Russian leadership, do little to prevent this or to make things change.
The new generation is the greatest hope. And this generation has found in music, dance and the club scene its great refuge. Like Bassiani, other magical spaces like Khidi, Cafe Gallery, Drama Bar or Mtkvarze work every week to try to change the world. Or, at least, their world.
In KF’s own words: “Clubs seek to create change with their culture. Bassiani is a fucking powerful entity here and the government recognizes its strength. It’s been the club that’s been given the most coverage because of the raids, but all the clubs in Tbilisi are making a big change.”