Rave Season:
Inside Kyiv's Underground Club Scene
Photos by Anastasia Vlasova
With techno music once again in style, raves in Kyiv are drawing as many people as pop concerts. Some call the Ukrainian capital the new Berlin — one of the centers of the underground club movement. In this photo project, Hromadske tells the story of three of Kyiv's regular events: Cxема, HDSH and the music festival Brave! Factory.
Mykola Shmatkov,
22-year-old product manager at a software company.

For me, dance is like a language that I speak with music. In other words, I go to the rave and "communicate."
For me, Схема is the only rave in its pure form. Just music, megawatt sound and dancing. Nothing superfluous.
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Mykola Shmatkov, 22-year-old product manager at a software company.
 
 
 
 
For me, dance is like a language that I speak with music. In other words, I go to the rave and “communicate.”
 
 
 
 
For me, Схема is the only rave in its pure form. Just music, megawatt sound and dancing. Nothing superfluous.
 
 
 
 
"In the beginning there was Jack, and Jack had a groove.
And from this groove came the groove of all grooves.
And while one day viciously throwing down his box, Jack boldly declared,
'Let there be House!' and house music was born."
– Rhythm Controll, "My House" 1987
The first raves took place in the mid-1980s. Chicago, Detroit, London, Manchester and Berlin drew thousands of lovers of electronic dance music. Open spaces and the sound of loud, monotone music made up of simple rhythms and absolute freedom were the ingredients for parties that went on for hours.
Alina Palahnyuk,
24-year-old personnel director.

How often do I go to parties? Not often. I prefer festivals. Ones like, for example, Alfa-Jazz, Porto Franko. So when I was going to the party at HDSH, I wanted to stand out from the regulars. That's why I decided to put on a dress.
For me the atmosphere is important. I like parties where they play hip-hop, funk and rap. Basically, I'm more into old school.
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Alina Palahnyuk, 24-year-old personnel director.
 
 
 
 
How often do I go to parties? Not often. I prefer festivals. Ones like, for example, Alfa-Jazz, Porto Franko. So when I was going to the party at HDSH, I wanted to stand out from the regulars. That’s why I decided to put on a dress.
For me the atmosphere is important. I like parties where they play hip-hop, funk and rap. Basically, I’m more into old school.
 
 
 
 
"Brothers, Sisters
One Day we will be free
From fight, violence, people crying in the streets."
–Joe Smooth, "Promised Land," 1987.
In those days, the main types of music at raves were Chicago House and Detroit Techno. They appeared as alternatives to disco, which was losing popularity at the time. Stylistically, these genres came from disco but they sounded minimalistic and were performed with the help of synthesizers. They became the voices of the depressed and crime-ridden cities of the United States and were heard on dance floors from New York to Chicago — and in Europe, as well.
Kseniya Vynohradova, 24-year-old sound engineer.
I wouldn't call myself a raver at all. I went to a party at Схема once and quickly left. I just wasn't expecting so many teenagers and they were constantly pushing. But since then I've gone there sometimes to dance. They have cool artists.
Everything started with my first visit to the club Closer in Kyiv. There was a lecture about the composer Alfred Schnittke. I felt something in the atmosphere of this place. I began to visit clubs and studios more often, getting acquainted with different, wonderful people.
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Kseniya Vynohradova, 24-year-old sound engineer.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I wouldn’t call myself a raver at all. I went to a party at Схема once and quickly left. I just wasn’t expecting so many teenagers and they were constantly pushing. But since then I’ve gone there sometimes to dance. They have cool artists.
Everything started with my first visit to the club Closer in Kyiv. There was a lecture about the composer Alfred Schnittke. I felt something in the atmosphere of this place. I began to visit clubs and studios more often, getting acquainted with different, wonderful people.
 
 
 
 
"When we touch I lose control
Now you know what's next
Fantasizing all the time
I need your love."
– Frankie Knuckles "Your Love" 1987
The "second summer of love" is what they called raves at the end of the 1980s in Britain. It was a reference to the first "summer of love," the American hippie movement in the 1960s. In the 1980s, the first DJs began to appear — people like Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold, and Mike Pickering.

Big clubs featuring techno and house music opened. Along with the clubs came ecstasy, a synthetic drug that would be associated with raves and the atmosphere of hedonism during the "summer of love" in the following decades.

The English football team sang "it's E for England" in an anthem created by the group New Order, then the stars of the Manchester club Hacienda. But rave regulars associated the letter "E" with something else…
"It's a better record than the Labour party ever had.
It's a party. The bass goes on."
– V.I.M. "Maggie's Last Party" 1991.
The British authorities traditionally did not share the enthusiasm of British youth. Raves were outlawed and practically equated with narcotics. Constant raids at parties forced ravers to become mobile. All of their equipment was mounted on mobile platforms that were easy to collect and move to other locations. They also developed a notification system through which no one, including the police, knew where the next party would be held until the last moment.

Although the movement was predominantly apolitical, it couldn't help but reflect years of confrontation with the authorities. Some compositions appeared featuring anti-Tory rhetoric and the walls at parties were decorated with graffiti criticizing the government. The lyrics of V.I.M.'s hit "Maggie's Last Party" appeared as a letter addressed to the ravers from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
"What we're dealing with here is a total lack of respect for the law.
I'm the law and you can't beat the law.
Fuck 'em and their law."
– The Prodigy "Their Law" 1994
In 1994, the British government passed the Criminal Justice Bill, which expanded the powers of the police. It directly linked drugs and electronic music and explained, down to the smallest detail, how potentially dangerous genres of music sound. The duo Orbital released the song "Are We Here? (Criminal Justice Bill)" in protest. It was composed of four minutes of silence.
Alina Palahnyuk: "And maybe to make sure that I have already moved beyond that school."
Alina Palahnyuk: "The locations for HDSH were well chosen – a forest, garages. It gets complicated. There's no light, some people used flashlights during the concert. The sound was like you were at a school disco."
Alina Palahnyuk: "Why did I go there? To remember the old times."
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Alina Palahnyuk: “If you’re talking about HDSH, it has its own atmosphere and audience. And to be honest, I was just there as a regular person who wanted to go into this world.”
 
 
 
 
Alina Palahnyuk: “The locations for HDSH were well chosen – a forest, garages. It gets complicated. There’s no light, some people used flashlights during the concert. The sound was like you were at a school disco.”
 
 
 
 
Alina Palahnyuk: “Why did I go there? To remember the old times.”
 
 
 
 
Alina Palahnyuk: “And maybe to make sure that I have already moved beyond that school.”
 
 
 
 
In 1989, hundreds of young people gathered in Berlin for the Love Parade under the motto "Peace, Joy, Pancakes." The rave took place outside and all of the equipment travelled along the city's streets on a mobile platform. For the next ten years, the Love Parade was the largest rave in Europe. The number of attendees reached one million and hundreds of DJs and bands played their songs in the world's biggest cities.

But there were constant problems with residents of the neighbourhoods where the event was held and disputes with the authorities about the tons of garbage that were left behind after the parade. Additionally, the Berlin Zoo believed that the loud music harmed the animals. In 2007, the Berlin Senate told the organizers of the Love Parade that they would no longer be given locations for the rave.
Mykola Shmatkov: "My first real rave was here, at Cхема, two years ago. I immediately found an incredible sense of freedom."
Mykola Shmatkov: "What struck me at Схема was the musical diversity. There was hip-hop, ambient and techno. It didn't let you get bored."
Mykola Shmatkov: "Not to mention the social diversity. There were lots of people my age and some even older, not just a bunch of teenagers."
Mykola Shmatkov: "True raves are those without restrictions, stereotypes or borders."
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Mykola Shmatkov: “My first real rave was here, at Cхема, two years ago. I immediately found an incredible sense of freedom.”
 
 
 
 
Mykola Shmatkov: “What struck me at Схема was the musical diversity. There was hip-hop, ambient and techno. It didn’t let you get bored.”
 
 
 
 
Mykola Shmatkov: “Not to mention the social diversity. There were lots of people my age and some even older, not just a bunch of teenagers.”
 
 
 
 
Mykola Shmatkov: “True raves are those without restrictions, stereotypes or borders.”
 
 
 
 
Mykola Shmatkov: “I really feel free there, both physically and mentally.”
 
 
 
 
"If Madonna calls,
Tell her I'm not here.
And disconnect her."
–Junior Vasquez, "If Madonna Calls" 1996
In the mid-1990s, Orbital performed on the mainstage at Glastonbury, the largest music festival in Europe. Songs by the group Underworld appeared in the cult film Trainspotting. DJ and producer Fatboy Slim acquired shares in a football club. Aphex Twin travelled by "Ferret" – an armored car usually used in the armed forces.

Artists who played at raves became the new rockstars, gathering tens of thousands of listeners and receiving invitations to work with pop stars. In the end, they became commercialized.
Kseniya Vynohradova: "I fell in love with the diversity of electronic music and the very idea of the dance floor."
Kseniya Vynohradova: "The idea is that the listener and the performer create something together. It's not like at a rock concert, where they're stretching their hands out to the idol on stage."
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Right
 
 
 
 
Kseniya Vynohradova: “I fell in love with the diversity of electronic music and the very idea of the dance floor.”
Kseniya Vynohradova: “The idea is that the listener and the performer create something together. It’s not like at a rock concert, where they’re stretching their hands out to the idol on stage.”
 
 
 
 
Kseniya Vynohradova: “At Brave! Factory there were musicians whose performances I had been awaiting for a long time. Some of the others I had never heard before, but they really won me over.”
 
 
 
 
"Build a fire,
Stoke it good,
Throw them on,
And watch the bastards burn."
The KLF, "Burn the Bastards" 1988.
At the 1992 Brit Awards, musicians from the band KLF, known for inventing several genres of electronic music, fired machine gun blanks into the audience from the stage. No one knew this was going to happen. In 1994, they made a video recording of themselves burning a million pounds. These were both acts of protests against the ideology of Big Show Business.
"Every night with my star friends
We eat caviar and drink champagne,
Sniffing in the VIP area
We talk about Frank Sinatra."
– Miss Kitten & The Hacker, "Frank Sinatra" 2000
Forbes magazine, which doesn't acknowledged those with less than a million dollars, has been listing the world's richest DJs for the past 10 years. Two years ago, the Spanish festival Sonar, one of the most famous electronic music festivals in Europe, contributed 72 million euros to Catalonia's GDP. In the 2000s, raves became a powerful part of the pop culture industry and ceased to be centers for fans of progressive experimental music.
Raves experienced a new wave of popularity at the beginning of this decade as part of a general trend of nineties revival. The new adherents follow the old aesthetic down to the smallest details: from clothing to industrial locations and techno music. And it's happening in Berlin, in London, and in Kyiv.
"We are just dreams and space,
Stranded in this funky place,
No transport out of here,
I guess we have to put away our fear."
– Cybotron, "Enter" 1983.
Mykola Shmatkov: "Raves are a unique cauldron of people and thoughts, where almost all social groups mix."
Kseniya Vynohradova: "There's a lot of love at raves."
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Mykola Shmatkov: “Raves are a unique cauldron of people and thoughts, where almost all social groups mix.”
 
 
 
 
Kseniya Vynohradova: “There’s a lot of love at raves.”
 
 
 
 

/Translated & Adapted by Eilish Hart
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