My Zagreb story: Damir Cuculić

In 1992, Damir Cuculić, a catalyst of Croatia's electronic music scene, organised Zagreb's first rave in the city centre's Grič Tunnel

By Marc Rowlands
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My Zagreb Story
© Mirna Pibernik

My name is Damir Cuculić. I was born in Zagreb. In the '80s I was a DJ, I have been in love with music since I was ten years old. Disco music was my first big love and after that hip hop. I first encountered electronic dance music at the end of the '80s. I had a connection in London and he told me about what was happening there, the first rave parties. At this time there was no Youtube, no Facebook, nothing. The only way you could find out was by travelling there or, like me, in a phone call from a friend.

The first rave-style party I did was in 1992 in KSET. It was small. The first big one I did was here, in Grič Tunnel. This was the time of war in Croatia. Yugoslavia was falling apart. A dangerous time. Why did we decide this was a good time to start having raves? I don't know. Today, I cannot explain it. We were young and crazy.

Rave at the Grič tunnel in the 90's /© Under City Rave

Two of my friends were artists and they built installations. The idea was to have a multimedia event, an art exhibition combined with a rave party. Back then, I didn't know anything about Grič Tunnel, only that it existed. Only later I found out its interesting history. It was built as a bomb shelter in the times of war and it goes all the way to the other side of the city centre.

 

When we held the party, everyone complained. The police, the neighbours, everyone. Nobody had any experience of setting up something like this, or how to deal with it. We thought there would be 500-700 people maximum. 5000 people came. From here at the tunnel entrance on Mesnička, right the way down to Ilica, was just packed full of people, waiting to get in. We'd printed our own tickets rather primitively, so people took them home and just photocopied them for their friends. After a while, we simply could not tell which ones were real and which ones were fake.

Rave at the Grič tunnel in the 90's /© Under City Rave

After about 2500 people came in, you just couldn't fit any more. Inside, you could not even light a Zippo lighter because the air was so humid. The ventilation was awful. All we could do was leave the tunnel open at both ends and hope it would create a draft. The moisture in the air condensed as the night went on and it began to rain from the ceiling of the tunnel. It fell on all the people, on the DJs, the record players and mixer, everything. We had to quickly make a tent from nylon to protect the records and equipment. The tunnel itself was dry and dusty when we arrived. But all the condensation mixed with the dust and when we left everyone was covered in mud. The party went on until about 6am.

Rave at the Grič tunnel in the 90's /© Under City Rave

People at that time were afraid because of the war, frustrated and bored with all the fighting. They came to the party to let off some steam. It was good for that.  Since I did the rave here, I worked on TV until 2002, then I worked on radio shows. I did lots more raves, including the first at Zagreb Velesajam. Now I do Croatia's first homegrown electronic music festival, Future Sound of Zagreb. This year we will celebrate 20 years. I also have a studio at home and we film Top DJ Room there, with live-streamed sets from the best DJs in Croatia. It is my hobby, but also my love. Music was my first love and it is still like that today.

Zagreb changed a lot since we did that first rave. It changes every year. It's becoming more urban and these days there are all kinds of music festivals here. More and more people from around the world are now coming to visit Zagreb. For me, I have the feeling that when it was Yugoslavia, we were living in the Balkans for a hundred years. Now we are living in Europe.

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