Shutka Roma Rap. Domestic, but global. Shutter makers, sellers, builders, tailors during the day… hip-hop musicians during the night.
“Me Sijum Underground (I’m underground)”. This is the title of the first documentary in production of the web portal Balkon 3 (http://balkon3.com/mk/). The film is dedicated to an unusual hip-hop band from Skopje’s settlement Shuto Orizari. A band which isn’t very famous in Macedonia, but well known and appreciated outside of the country. They’ve performed on some of the most famous world music festivals in Hungary, Denmark… Shutter makers, sellers, builders, tailors during the day… hip-hop musicians during the night. The documentary was screened on April 3rd in the Cinematheque of Macedonia in Skopje.
We spoke with the authors of the documentary, the journalists Aleksandar Manasiev and Mirko Trajanovski, about the band, their music, and the reason for making the film. The producer of the documentary is the journalist Darko Chekerovski (http://balkon3.com/?p=9410).
ONE: Why a documentary for Shutka Roma Rap? What did you want to present?
Aleksandar Manasiev: The idea for the documentary came from a short video published at the end of 2012 on the multilingual web portal Balkon 3. Back then we presented the band and its music, and then, together with Mirko Trajanovski and the producer Darko Chekerovski, we decided to go a step further and make a documentary about these exceptional musicians. We discovered that Shutka Roma Rap and Balkon 3 have many similarities. First of all in the idea, or in breaking the barriers and shifting the boundaries. Shutka Roma Rap does this through their music. They break the boundaries between the traditional and the modern, between ethno music and hip-hop, but they’re also breaking the generation gap by mixing experienced musicians with young hip-hop artists. That is a unique project, just like the project Balkon 3. We try to break the Balkan barriers created by politics. We try to do it on a cultural level, through our articles and videos, to approximate Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Albania and the rest of the Balkan countries. At the same time, we wanted to fix a kind of injustice, which is to make the band famous in the country where it was “born”, since it is contradictory for them to be famous outside the country and almost unheard of in it.
ONE: Yes, the band is famous outside of Macedonia (France, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia…). What’s it like at home, is it difficult to succeed in the Macedonian music scene?
Mirko Trajanovski: Unfortunately, like many other Macedonian artists, Shutka Roma Rap are more famous abroad than in their own country. During our conversations with the band’s members, with whom we developed a friendly relationship, I noticed that they are amazed and a bit revolted from this situation. This is probably some Macedonian syndrome, but it isn’t so tragic. Nevertheless, Shutka Roma Rap are one of the few musicians from the country who have had performances on the world renowned festivals Sziget in Hungary and Roskilde in Denmark. Their music is excellent and above all original, so I believe that the most important thing for them is to reach the right audience – the people who will really enjoy their songs. I also hope that our documentary will help for their promotion before the Macedonian audience and will open the doors of international festivals on which they still haven’t performed.
ONE: You’ve been preparing the documentary for a year with, as you say, many vicissitudes… why?
Mirko: This is our first documentary as authors, but also as a production of the web portal Balkon 3. Overall, we began this adventure prepared, but like with every serious project there were many obstacles and dilemmas. Some of the issues were resolved along the way, but some required serious discussions. You know, when you work on a project like this, which you are especially fond of, you want to make the most of it. The recording of the material lasted several months. Shutka Roma Rap as a band and Shutka as a settlement are very inspirational and we often came up with new ideas during the filming. Simply put, the story developed on its own. I must say that we enjoyed filming in the company of the band’s members, and for me personally that was the best part of the work. Afterwards we started editing the material, which is also a laborious and creative process which requires a lot of time. All in all, after all of the vicissitudes, we are satisfied with the final product. But the most important thing for me is that the whole team enjoyed and had fun during the development of the film.
Music “born” in basements, performed on global festivals
ONE: What is specific about Shutka Roma Rap?
Aleksandar: First of all the music. It is an incredible blend of ethno with hip-hop, jazz and other elements, which makes it unique. We couldn’t stop listening to it while making the movie, it’s really catchy. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the music is “born” in Shutka’s basements, and performed on global festivals. But, what particularly intrigued us was the fact that almost all of the band’s members are musicians only in their free time. During the day they have jobs to earn a living, but also to be able to engage in their passion – the music. Some of the members sell clothes on the merriest market in the country, the one in Shutka, where poor and rich people come to shop. Another one has his own tailoring shop where he works for more than 10 hours a day on the sewing machine. Others are builders, shutter and windows makers; they worked on a furnace at the steel plant, recorded weddings, etc. How many musicians who have performed on festivals such as Sziget can say that they had this kind of lives?
Aleksandar: Before screening the film in the Cinematheque of Macedonia, we had a screening only for the band in a café bar in Shutka. It was really incredible to see their reaction seeing the film for the first time after a year of filming. The screening in the Cinematheque went incredibly well, the film was excellently accepted and it received applauses, just like the members of Shutka Roma Rap. Several domestic and foreign festivals are interested for its screening, and we hope that this is only the beginning of the road for the first documentary in production of Balkon 3. Not only are we planning a Balkan tour, but we also plan screenings outside of the Balkan. The documentary does not only refer to the Roma population or to the music lovers, but it is a story for everyone, a lot different than all stories made about Shutka or about someone coming from this settlement.