For its vibrant electronic music scene, Kyiv is frequently dubbed “the new Berlin.”

And so is Tbilisi.

But what if the two join forces?

There will be a spark, says the team of the world-famous Georgian club Bassiani, which is preparing a major festival in Kyiv named Ickpa (pronounced “Iskra” which means “spark” in Ukrainian).

“We are from Tbilisi but we wanted to have a very authentic and unique project born in Kyiv,” Zviad Gelbakhiani, one of the club’s co-founders, told the Kyiv Post.

Ickpa will bring together more than 40 DJs and producers for a non-stop run of electronic blast on July 23–24. But it has much more to offer than a star lineup.

One of its core ideas is to establish an annual platform for dialogue between the West and the emerging electronic scenes of post-Soviet countries, which, being at the forefront of liberalization, often struggle to survive in conservative societies.


“It’s the beginning of something new,” Gelbakhiani says.

Mutual affection

Bassiani has thrown showcases in pretty much every country, including Ukraine.

Since its founding in 2014, the Tbilisi club has grown into an international sensation, attracting tourists to the Georgian capital, promoting local producers and getting some of the world’s best DJs as residents.

Yet its team has never organized a festival outside of Georgia.

The idea of launching Ickpa has been in the air for about four years. The team saw Kyiv as a perfect location, said another Bassiani and Iskra co-founder, Guri Gotsadze.

This is primarily because of the many historic, political and social similarities Georgia and Ukraine share. Both countries have a Soviet past and suffered from Russia’s armed aggression, which pushed both states to aspire to join the European Union. Local creative communities who look up to the West started developing industries that had bloomed there but were pretty much nonexistent here, like electronic music.

However, the team sees Kyiv as the more international and progressive city compared to conservative Tbilisi. They believe the Ukrainian capital can serve as a cultural link between the West and the former socialist countries.


“Kyiv met us and opened the door easily like it wouldn’t happen in any other post-Soviet city,” Gelbakhiani says. “This fascinates us and would fascinate the European market.”

And last but not least, Gotsadze adds, is the mutual affection between Georgians and Ukrainians. “I don’t recall any other nation that Georgians love so much,” he says.

The co-founders of electronic music nightclub Bassiani in Tbilisi Guri Gotsadze (L) and Zviad Gelbakhiani talk to the Kyiv Post on the territory of Khvylia Sanatorium that will host the first edition of their festival Iskpa on June 30, 2021 in Kyiv. (Oleg Petrasiuk)

After years of putting the idea off, the pandemic has finally given the Bassiani team free time to develop it.

With extremely tight restrictions in Georgia, including a curfew, Bassiani has been closed since March 2020. Since then, the club’s team has only thrown several outdoor events in the midst of its struggle to survive.

And while the Georgian authorities are only starting to experiment with mass events this summer, Ukraine has lifted all limits on social gatherings.

“It’s very exciting to have this possibility,” Gotsadze says.

Instant hit

Ickpa is entering a competitive market in Kyiv.

This summer alone, the capital is hosting at least four big electronic festivals, as well as countless parties every weekend.


But Ickpa fears no competition. It has sold out a batch of early bird tickets in just a week and expects several thousand attendees.

Though humbled by the high demand, the team wasn’t surprised.

“Kyiv has a wonderful and very active electronic music scene,” Gotsadze says. “All festivals, as far as I know, get sold out.”

Ukrainian DJ and producer Vera Logdanidi, who will perform at Ickpa, is also the co-founder of the Rhythm Büro promotional group that runs parties and festivals in Kyiv.

She says that Bassiani’s event, if proven successful, will push other summer festivals to improve. Iskpa might also trigger another round of international attention to Kyiv as a city with great potential for developing club projects.

“It means that the Ukrainian market is attractive, that we have a big country, a strong scene, an excellent location,” Logdanidi told the Kyiv Post.

Still, Ickpa already stands out from the rest, and not just because of the famous name behind it.

It’s one of the few electronic festivals in Kyiv with a title in Ukrainian – most are in English or Russian – since the team aimed to make Ickpa “a very Kyiv and Ukrainian” get-together.

No less extraordinary is its location. There will be no typical industrial premises of factories or warehouses, but a Soviet modernist structure of Khvylia (Wave) Sanatorium, a working establishment in the woods on the outskirts of Kyiv.

The upcoming electronic music festival Iskpa founded by the team of Tbilisi nightclub Bassiani will take place at Kyiv’s Khvylia Sanatorium. This Soviet modernist structure is located deep in the pine woods on the northern outskirts of Kyiv. (Oleg Petrasiuk)

Though Ickpa highlights the shift away from the Soviet past, the team says it shouldn’t devalue the Soviet modernist aesthetics, which they very much enjoy.

“The fact that it’s Soviet doesn’t mean that it’s bad,” Gotsadze says.

Just like Kyiv, Tbilisi is packed with extraordinary Soviet architectural assets, one of which is home to Bassiani. The club is hidden in the underground of Georgia’s largest stadium, Dinamo Arena, with the dancefloor famously located inside the former pool.

Khvylia has a pool too, right in the center of its main building, surrounded by glass walls, but it will be used for an art installation.

The old shabby gym will host the only indoor stage, occupied by the artists of the local Veselka queer party.

The other three stages will be arranged across the sanatorium territory, in the midst of the quiet pine woods. The team is doing some extensive makeovers to prepare the location. For the “Hot house stage,” they have taken out 10 trucks of trash from a greenhouse and will install some flooring and shading there.

“We have had many options regarding the location, some of them were close to the city center and were less struggle but we wanted to have a very unique project which would be totally different not only in Ukraine but in Eastern Europe,” Gelbakhiani says.



Ickpa’s lineup is a multifarious mix of genres and origins.

Carefully curated by the team, it features names that need no introduction like Detroit techno pioneer Jeff Mills, Bassiani residents DVS1 and Hector Oaks, Berlin underground rebel MCMLXXXV and more. A good share of the program is taken up by Georgian artists the likes of Salome, Hvl and Newa.

But nearly half the DJs are locals, including some of the most prominent names like Berghain resident Etapp Kyle, arguably Ukraine’s most-booked DJ Nastia and local techno pioneer Stanislav Tolkachev among others.

“We want to position Iskpa with its local community,” Gelbakhiani says.

Kyiv’s Soviet Khvylia Sanatorium will host the first edition of electronic music festival Iskpa in late July. Khvylia’s main building will be the setting of oneof the four stages, as well as some art installations. (Oleg Petrasiuk)

The intention was not only to give the event a local sound, but also help Ukrainian DJs with visibility. As members of an emerging scene themselves, Bassiani’s team says it’s hard for little-known DJs to compete in the West.

Though western European capitals have reignited electronic dance music after its birth in the United States, these scenes are now going down, Gelbakhiani says. The future is East, many now say.

“The members of these scenes are dedicated to creating something fresh, which I do not see in the major cities of central European countries,” Gelbakhiani says.


But for these emerging arenas to push the development of the international industry, they first need to survive. Growing in the complex socio-political conditions of developing countries with their conservative populations, many players fall victim to stigma and ostracism because they advocate for progressive societal and legal changes.

In Kyiv, many clubs were brutally raided during the pandemic, resulting in a mass protest against the police.

Bassiani itself nearly shut down three years ago after being raided by the authorities and blackmailed by the right-wing movements for its activism. The club has actively advocated for LGBTQ rights and protested against the draconian laws for drug offenses.

“We have many obstacles to exist,” Gelbakhiani says.

But the team believes there’s hope in establishing a cultural conversation between the eastern and western scenes at events like Ickpa. The festival’s panel discussions will look for other ways to cooperate. Aside from Tbilisi and Kyiv, it will bring in speakers from Baku, Belgrad, Berlin and Amsterdam.

“Without this unity, we would be isolated and we don’t want to have this isolation because there are many threats,” Gelbakhiani says. “We want to break through.”

Iskpa festival. July 23-24. Khvylia Sanatorium (1D Pukhivska St.) Two-day pass — Hr 1,250. Get tickets here.

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