Skopje 2028 hung out with part of the AMOK Radio team - the cult urban space and online music platform. We talked about the AMOK Radio idea, program, cooperation and urban Skopje with Bojan Janev (Soul Case, Oubli) and Nikola Dimitrievikj (Double G, Skopski Groove/Wax Revival Store)
photo: Sonja Stavrova
What does AMOK Radio represent (for you), where does it operate and when it started? BJ AMOK Radio has been operating since January 13 this year, when we had the first stream. We had the idea for the radio already sometime before the opening. We started searching for space, before the pandemic, we initially thought of making a bar with a radio. Due to financial reasons, we were forced to restructure the idea, being left without fees due to the pandemic and inability to perform. In these conditions, we decided to take a smaller bite, investment-wise. For me and for all the founders, AMOK Radio means life, all the love and energy we have we invest in the radio itself.
How does AMOK Radio work in the internet space? BJ It is not a classical radio because we don’t have program 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, we function as a DJ radio, i.e., our program consists of DJ sets of local DJs and international artists. We stream 4 to 5 hours a day from Wednesday to Saturday, and sometimes on Sundays. We work continually to enrich the program. We started with 3 hours a day and over time we expanded it. It is a digital platform because we operate only on the Internet, but we also have physical space. We broadcast online. When DJs perform in the space of AMOK Radio, we go with a live audio stream on our website amokradio.com, and at the same time, we have a video stream on YouTube. Artists from other cities, who cannot come to perform live on the radio, are sending us audio sets that we broadcast on our website.
Who stands behind AMOK radio and the whole initiative?
BJ There are five of us in total, Nikola/Double G, Nastasia, Andreja/DJ Ux and Jovan Dzagi and I. In fact, this is a fusion of the 2 collectives, Oubli (Bojan/Soul Case, Andreja/DJ Ux and Alek, who moved to Berlin) and Skopski Groove (Nikola/Double G, Nastasia and Jovan Dzagi). We used to organize some joint events and somehow from the very beginning we fit in with the idea. We are more or less the same generation and we supported each other, and every time we cooperated, it went very organic, easy and simple.
We are talking about communities and you are coming from two music and art collectives that have been active for several years. What does the community mean to you? BJ With the radio we basically wanted to establish and make a community space where people of all ages, from all fields, do not have to be just DJs or producers, rather, anyone who is interested in music can come and listen, and even play a set here. Since a few years ago, we actively play music and we know approximately how the local scene works, and we felt it needs to collaborate better. I think we succeeded in that since we have gathered almost everybody under one roof; representatives of different groups, clubs, from all spheres and areas, and we manage to act as a community space.
How did you manage in a time of COVID-19 pandemic, when musicians were literally excluded from support and were left out? How did you manage to gather around you, not only your friends and close associates of your generations but also musicians, DJs and producers of all generations? BJ We simply called a number of musicians. The goal was to unite the freelance DJs and musicians, who were left in the lurch, in these, particularly difficult moments. We had neither a medium nor a place to express ourselves creatively. Thus, the very idea of giving a space and a certain session time, to anyone who has an idea to play music and host the show, came naturally. It was very important for all of us to unite because only in this way, the whole scene can develop and maybe return to the world music map. In recent years there have been some performances and events, but in our opinion, we should do much better.
What is the program of AMOK Radio, what type of music does it treat? BJ Basically, anyone interested can write or call us, and ask to play music on AMOK Radio. If we think it will present something fresh and new we will give them space. The freshness and the artists’ ideas are crucial. We have residents and guests of the program. In the beginning, we made a list of residents, which is dynamic and expanded with time. We have large collections of music, literally from A to Z from ambient to jazz, disco funk, soul, house, techno, electronic, reggae ... we do not limit ourselves because we personally listen to different music and have different musical backgrounds. Nikola is into hip hop, funk. Dj Ux and I are more in house, disco, and Nastasia prefers electronics.
What is the idea for the future development of the radio? BJ 90% of the program, I would say consists of a classical DJ set or some modification of a classic DJ set. From the very beginning, we wanted to include a podcast in the program, which is popular worldwide. We want to break the program a bit, not to have music all the time, but also to have talking slots and present different guests from different spheres, to talk about their professions or hobbies. Sometimes some artists in their show make a podcast, with one hour of music and one hour of discussion. We leave space, if someone wants to do a podcast, we are in the mood to realize it, because there are not many here who do that.
When did Wax Revival Store start operating, what is the idea behind the store and how does it work within AMOK Radio? ND Wax Revival Store has been operating since June 21, 2019, so around 2 years now. With AMOK, the whole idea was to merge a radio, a record store and a café bar into one. Due to the explained reasons, we were able to start only with the radio. Yet in the radio space, the Wax Revival Store got its own, so to say, exhibition space. However, if someone wants to buy a record, they can do it only online, because it is an online shop.
Is there an interest among the new generation in buying vinyl? ND We cannot complain, young people, follow us, we are not still followed by the audience that buys vinyl in the other record stores in the city. Some periods we sell more, some less, but we do quite OK in general. The store is focused more on dance music.
What is your vision for the city of Skopje, in which direction do you think it is going, is it a good city for living in terms of culture? ND From the aspect of the culture there is potential for development, because our generation and the younger ones, with the things we do, we recognize an interest, for this whole wave. I think it goes in the right direction and there is a huge struggle with a large population of culturally uneducated people. We need to persist together.
BJ I personally have a love-hate relationship with Skopje. At times I'm ready to move out, I'm moving, then I'm coming back. I have lived abroad for some time, but I have definitely not moved out, because I think we still have things to do here. We are in too deep now, and can’t just let it go. Maybe I would leave when I see Skopje in a different light, after me personally, once all of us have contributed meaningfully to that. If we don’t do it though, we cannot expect too much from a wide audience that is stuck in monotony and does not want to explore new things, does not want to hear new music, does not want to try new food… or anything. So yes, I think there is a lot of potentials, especially because of us, the young generation. We have positive feedback from our generation and even the older, but it is still a struggle that must be endured. I hope we will succeed in what we have set ahead of us. This is simply, to take Skopje to a higher level, and with our work to put it on the world or European clubbing map, music map, especially for dance, electronic music. To let people, even tourists know if they come to Skopje, that there is a radio, that there are record stores, that there are clubs, that there is a good audience, the weather is great, the people are warm and with good spirits, the food is extra. Thus, there is potential, only we need to work.
The conversation was led by Violeta Kachakova