How did ZAIKA come about?
ZAIKA started in 2021. The idea had already been there for a while, but that year I officially started the party series with Dana Montana. We had always wanted to organize our own party, something by ourselves and for ourselves, a place where we would like to party, with our rules and philosophy. Over the past 7 years that I have lived in Antwerp, I’ve noticed that a lot of young queer people seem to think that some of the key queer events were very exclusive. Although I know that these events are a super welcoming environment for people of all ages and all kinds, I understood that their perception of these events might be different because they hadn’t been. This inspired the idea to create an outwardly welcoming and easygoing space. A lot of the queer concepts in Antwerp have a slightly older audience, and this younger audience didn’t really have a place yet.
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The first two editions of ZAIKA were completely sold out. There were still covid restrictions back then, so we couldn’t allow a lot of people inside, but even when it was a full house, there were still 30-40 people standing outside waiting. That was so cool. I felt that whatever we were doing then must be right if there are people who have that same mindset and are looking for the same thing.
Where does the name ZAIKA come from?
Zaika, literally translated from Russian, means little bunny. Dana and I were putting together mood boards and collecting things from vintage magazines when we first started ZAIKA. We stumbled across this old soviet children's book which was called Zaika, actually Zaika Serenkiy, which means little grey bunny. When I read this children's book everything we were trying to do made sense. It is a story about this little rabbit, who, of course, is the most scared creature in the forest. Any branch that cracks, or any wind that blows makes him run away and hide. Then, one day, he gets to higher ground in the forest, stands up and says, ‘I am not afraid anymore.’ Nobody really believes him, they question him, but he says, ‘Yes, just like that, I just decided this for myself.’ And with that, he brings together all of the animals of the forest and inspires them not to fear the wolves. I like to fantasise and create little worlds with everything I do, and this story left so much room for imagination. Metaphorically as well, it kind of matches up with what the queer scene is. Animals of all sizes and kinds, bears and foxes and bunnies and so on, all brought together under one roof with ZAIKA.
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Do you think that starting ZAIKA right after Covid helped motivate your audience to gather together in this kind of space?
I think Covid was a little opportunity window because I'm not sure if the impact of ZAIKA would be as big if I would have launched it, say, today. The absence of parties, and the fact that Zaika was one of the first that was allowed that summer, definitely reached a lot of people who were thirsty for going out. The first edition of ZAIKA was during Antwerp Pride Weekend, which was cool, and the reactions were really good. It also allowed me to meet new people because a lot of people who attended the first ZAIKA were friends, but a good amount I had never met before. I had no idea there were this many cool and interesting looking and funky dressing people in Antwerp.
I had no idea there were this many cool and interesting looking and funky dressing people in Antwerp
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What are some of the foundational values of ZAIKA
Freedom of self-expression, no judgement, no homophobia, no sexism, we come together and protect each other and keep an eye out for each other. Communication is very important, not only between the people who come party but also communication with the security, personnel and the staff of the venue is important. A very big example that I always look up to is the girls from Burenhinder, an Antwerp all-female collective that I have been following since the beginning. I am so mind-blown by their power, what they do, and how good they are at communicating and pushing their message and values. I try to do this in my own way with ZAIKA, but Burenhinder is a really good example to take as a queer-oriented party promoter.
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What is the style of ZAIKA?
It is ongoing, it keeps on evolving. I have a playlist on Spotify that is kind of a live mood board, which I sometimes send to artists, just as an outline to show the direction I am going. Even that playlist is constantly changing as I am discovering new stuff. I like that ZAIKA has the freedom to go in all directions with electronic music. Musically, ZAIKA started because I have been working in and going to techno parties for so many years, and you just get kind of tired of it at some point, because there is so much other cool music around. ZAIKA creates the opportunity to explore all these different genres. The artists that I book are often used to being told, ‘you have to play louder, harder, darker,’ and I try to motivate them to show their softer side musically. Sexy, sleazy, funky, stuff they might not dare to play in a techno club. Along with that, the entire identity and visual design are pretty anti-techno in that way.
Sexy, sleazy, funky, stuff they might not dare to play in a techno club
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How would you describe the visual identity of ZAIKA?
I design all the ZAIKA stuff myself. It is fluffy, innocent, and childish, like a summer camp announcement board or posters. ZAIKA is definitely a personal outlet for me to do all of the way too cute, way too pink, way too glittery things that I didn't really allow myself to do growing up. Now I have this outlet and can do whatever I like, I am having a lot of fun with it. I do have my own visual style, but when I began designing for this upcoming edition I started from scratch and did something completely different. I think I’m gonna keep doing that, trying to surprise myself, fucking around with photoshop and just seeing where I end up. I would like to approach the lineup in the same way, fearlessly.
How do you feel about the collaboration with Different Class?
Different Class has been super kind to me from the beginning. It was also unexpected, because ZAIKA is still kind of new in town, only recently starting to do this stuff, and Different Class just made it feel seen. What we are doing probably does really matter, because not only are we receiving good feedback, but also real institutions and people who have been working with promoters for years say, we acknowledge you and what you do. I am super excited about the party, the lineup is going to be super interesting. I am going to have one Ukranian DJ from Berlin coming for the first time to Antwerp, and then 2 locals. It’s important to continue the support of Ukrainian artists around Europe in this time of war. Book them! Promote them! Donate! Scream their name! Give them a hug!
They need the push more than anyone else right now…
I would like to approach the lineup in the same way, fearlessly
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Also without them – There is no Antwerp – And no Zaika! So here it goes:
All The Lovers - Burenhinder - Oh Honey! - Send In The Clowns - SCANDALS - Lovegroove - Meshugat - Dürum & Bass - Drag Me To Hell
Different Class feat. Toverberg & Zaika
10.03.2023 - Antwerp, De Studio
Become a Different Class member and enjoy this exclusive party