One of our first run-ins with Tijana T was through a photo she’d shared on Instagram, focussing on a pile of records she’d just bought from Berlin store The Record Loft. Among the stack were records from labels like Nervous and Tribal, giving us an early idea of her taste for 90s US house. That photo was taken in 2016, a year that also saw her making debuts at highly-respected clubs like ARMA17 and Bassiani. She’s been playing at clubs and festivals across the world almost every weekend since then, including a first date with us in Room One on 26th May.
Though she was involved in the music industry long before DJing, she first broke through in her Belgrade hometown, and specifically the city’s two best clubs: Klub 20/44 and Drugstore Belgrade. The breakthrough artist earned a reputation as the highly-skilled resident at both of these joints, playing an eclectic mix of house, acid, techno, rave and breakbeats depending on the mood and occasion. She’s brought the same energetic style to her mix for us, and how we expect she’ll be playing at our Exit Festival Launch party later on this month.
So what have you been up to recently? You told us you were busy touring when you recorded this.
My life has mostly been touring over the last 3 years, one big never-ending tour. I'm trying to manage all the travels and work on music with my normal everyday life, music and singing classes, and the hard work of staying sane mentally and physically. I'm super happy to have one extra obligation on top of it all – a radio show for Rinse FM!
How’s the Rinse gig been going so far?
Doing radio shows is not new to me, I had my radio show for a few years on Belgrade's B92 until the radio station was sold and eventually disappeared, and I also spent over a decade producing and hosting music TV shows in different forms. In my Rinse FM residency I am trying not to play too much of the techno that people usually associate with me, I actually play all sorts of music old and new and that's what I do on the radio. There's also no dancefloor pressure, there's no need to entertain anyone, and people listen to it in a different way, so even mixing is not so important. I enjoy those aspects. Plus I can talk and remind myself of the good old presenter days! I actually also worked as “the voice” for commercials, so you could hear my voice in shampoo or chocolate ads in Serbia.
Is there a theme to the mix you’ve done for us?
Like my club sets, I don't have a theme for mixes, I just try to capture that exact moment in time. In home recorded mixes it is capturing the mood which was around at the time and music I enjoyed listening to or stumbled upon at that given period of time. In the club there's a different kind of communication and exchange, so mixes are different and have a different vibe to it. I guess in all my mixes it's possible to hear my musical influences from different eras and styles in music. This one turned out to sound quite ravey. I love the 90s.
We’ve heard a lot about Belgrade’s club scene, particularly Klub 20/44. How would you describe a typical party there?
As with all of the most intense experiences and feelings, it's really hard to describe it and put into words. There's a special something in that place, I’m not sure if it's the boat itself or the love that everyone invested in it. Or maybe it’s the David Lynch-themed red aesthetics… I haven't felt this feeling anywhere else. And I'm not the only one to say it! I guess it's also important to note that parties in Belgrade tend to be very intense and energetic. Club-goers are into music and they know their music, so you can't just come here and play anything. Often, the crowd will know the music better than many DJs!
And how is access to records? From what you’ve said previously we can imagine you’re typically buying them from outside of the city.
Belgrade and Serbia have been in constant crisis for the last 28 years, and the country was under sanctions, isolated and in wars for 10 years. Even though life now seems less dramatic than in the 90s, there are still many consequences we need to live with. Trading, importing and exporting just doesn’t really work like in the rest of Europe or the world. Records are a luxury. So for one, the process of importing is very expensive and complication, and then for people to buy it’s also very expensive. The average salary in Serbia is 300 EUR per month. So go figure… that’s the reason why we’ve had almost no record shops where DJs and music lovers can go to buy new releases. For us, the Internet was the key, and illegal downloading kept the culture alive, otherwise we would be totally cut out. So yes, I buy records when I’m travelling because even ordering online is complicated. Truth be told, we do have one very special record shop: Yugovinyl, which is now recognised as one of the best record shops in the world. It offers a selection of rare electronica, synth, new wave and more serious experimentations that were released in the Yugoslavian era and not too many people are familiar with or have access to. Recently the shop became trendy, as there was a connection between DJs playing at 20/44 and Drugstore, then going to Yugovinyl, discovering the music and spreading it around the world.
We understand you have a long-running connection to Exit Festival – can you tell us about your relationship with them?
I started as an interviewer and a reporter for TV Studio B during the early editions of Exit. I was so passionate, crazy and excited about the festival that I would come back with over 100 interviews every year. After a few years reporting like this I became part of the Exit team, first I was responsible for press and PR, then I started making Exit TV shows which were broadcast on national TV. After I stopped with all that I programmed one small stage there. Now I’m just a DJ.
Is there anything in particular you’ve heard about fabric that you’re excited about experiencing for the first time?
Well, before any other big and famous club in the world, there was fabric. The greatest of them all. At least that's what we in Belgrade knew about. Honestly, I'm not only excited to play this club, but to play in the UK finally after a long break and the visa hell I had to go through. I will invest all my special powers into making it memorable! There's also one particular memory I have of fabric, I used to work with Abe Duque and sing on some of his records back in the mid-00s, I wasn't quite aware that it was such a big deal and then a friend of mine called me very early on a Sunday morning from the club. He was in fabric and Craig Richards was playing one of our records, my friend was extremely excited to hear my voice breaking through the club. I'm happy to play that same place. 12 years later!