WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because being more stylish and well-informed has to start somewhere.
By Eugene S. Robinson
Two hours east of Berlin, in an area variously ruled by Slavs, Swedes, Prussians, Germans, Russians and Poles over the last 900 years, sits a city called Szczecin (pronounced Stet-chin). It’s home to the spot to be in, if you want to be seen while seeing: Odra Zoo.
Odra Zoo is a play on the Polish words for “right away,” od razu, and the nearby Oder river. It sits squarely in the Kolumba district near the Academy of Art and is the brainchild of 34-year-old Ludwik Przelomski. “Well, I care about young, difficult and unpopular art,” said Przelomski amid the dust of a soon-to-be-completed side room. “So, if it’s new and fresh and has something to do with visual arts, music, food or drink, it’s perfect for what we’re trying to do.”
Which, very specifically, is to mix sunny or deep house music, funk, reggae, food, drink and visual arts in an unmovable feast that cranks until 2 in the morning most nights. Or even beyond, into the early hours on the sotto voce, if the occasion calls for it. “This is our response to TV and the lack of challenge in how people spend their time when they’re not working,” says Przelomski.
Odra Zoo is staffed and curated by DJ Kamil Kuczynski, who is the Steve Rubell of Szczecin (the famous Studio 54 impresario, for those of you under 50). It follows on the heels of Aula 313, the now-defunct but significant art-music-culture space in Szczecin. Bringing in lots of American house DJs like Juan Atkins and every adherent of Frankie Knuckles, Aula 313 was a veritable institution, and yet it folded this past August. Which raises the question: Is Odra Zoo cool enough for people to make the roadie from Berlin? Or for locals to leave their houses?
“Clubbing exists in Poland and all over the world because of the music,” says Kuczynski, bearded, handsome and almost 30. “So the experience in total is about the music, the people into the music, who make it and the culture associated with deep house, chillout, ambient or downtempo. People have not stopped listening, and they won’t stop listening. And it’s always going to be more fun to go out and listen than to do it alone. Well, I guess, sometimes,” he laughs. Przelomski, in full blush, adds, “I think it’s a good time for ‘alternative’ things.”
Touring the club’s innards, we get a glimpse from ground zero of renewed club culture and recall that 15 years ago people would come from all over to hear Polish house. The Odra Zoo vibe — chill as chill can be — reminds you of easy nights, flowing drink and better company.
Future plans include contemporary art exhibitions, concerts and projects that combine all of the above. Przelomski’s 2014 dream is simple. He wants to ”organize some big techno and avant-garde festival in Szczecin like Nowe Hotyzonty, Audioriver, Tauron or the Off Festival.” With one big difference. “I would like to add some more coincidence or happy accidents to it — something like jam sessions. I want to make artists confront and clash with each other. I would also add to all of this some theatrical, film and performance activity.”
And yeah, Poland’s not that far at all to go for it.