05 May 2021
by michelle.ng | ES RADIO
Surrounded by music ever since she was born, it’s not surprising that Teodora Van Context carved out a career in the electronic music scene. The talented DJ, promoter and lady boss of Atipik has set down her roots in Hanoi, Vietnam to grow and expand the underground music scene.
Teodora Van Context looks at music as an inspirational vehicle to heal, relax, and uplift the soul. Her music is a delightful experience of atmospheric synths, acid grooves, and hypnotic breakbeats as she tunes into the moods and feelings of those around her. Through her agency Atipik, Teodora Van Context hopes to be able to bridge artists from Europe and Asia whilst giving rising talents a chance to showcase their works in different settings.
Electric Soul: Hi Teodora! You hail from Belgrade, Serbia – how did you end up settling in Vietnam?
Teodora Van Context: After living in Lisbon for 11 years and going back to Serbia in 2012 where I spent the next few years between Belgrade and Novi Sad, I realized that I needed a different perspective and a way to get out of my “European” comfort zone. I was always drawn to Asian culture and lifestyle, and after a vast research and help of dear friends, I decided to give Asia a try, starting with Vietnam. It was definitely new and weird at the beginning, but now I think I couldn’t go back to Europe and I can proudly say that Vietnam is home.
ES: Savage just had their first festival in over a year since the lockdown from COVID-19. What was it like being at an event with live music, and what are you looking forward to after this?
TVC: We are extremely lucky to be living in a country that has handled the pandemic so well. The lockdowns were short and efficient in containing the spread of the virus so the clubs and nightlife weren’t as affected as in the rest of the world. The festival in Mai Chau was a very unique experience, not just for the music but also because of the choice of venue – the mysterious cave and spectacular scenery of Northern Vietnam. Playing and dancing in such an environment was definitely a reminder of the feeling of freedom on a dancefloor. The Savage crew did an amazing job and we’re looking forward to see what they have in store for their next Equation festival.
ES: You’ve been organizing and promoting parties since you were 16. How did you get started?
TVC: I got my first job as a PR of a small upscale club in Lisbon when I was 16. My group of friends were all big music lovers and it came naturally to organize parties and events mostly for them and later for bigger crowds. I teamed up with Music Matters organization and I worked for them for a while, which later progressed to organizing my own events and working as a booking manager for a club.
ES: You’re a natural behind the decks too – how did you go from booking DJs to becoming one?
TVC: Since I was a child, I felt very connected to music. My father is a music producer and my mom is a big electronic music fan, which shaped my music taste from early years. I started collecting music way before I started playing, basically doing a DJ’s job but not actually playing. I have my best friend to thank for my first gig in Belgrade, where I was actually just selecting the music that he played. It was the fear and complexity of buttons and lights of the equipment that I needed to overcome. It sounds funny to me now but at the time, I felt it was too complicated for me to master. After a bit of practice and channeling my passion for music, it became a part of my life and I’m extremely grateful for that initial push.
ES: You’re also the founder of Atipik Agency, giving upcoming talents a chance to play at new spaces and connecting European and Asian communities. What does it take to catch your ear?
TVC: From the beginning, Atipik was created as a platform for young artists to have a chance to showcase their talent and get more exposure, in all art spheres, not just music. The idea is to connect music to other art forms such as painting, photography, mixed media, fashion, etc. We are now a team of 4 DJs and we all participate in the selection process. Boldness of music choices, a variety of genres, an interesting mixing technique and also the will to grow and improve are some of the criteria that we consider when selecting the new DJs/producers and even guests that we host for our events.
ES: Share some of the upcoming DJs that you think deserve to be heard!
TVC: One of my personal favorites is Tao Fu, the newest addition to Atipik roster. Her evolution in sound and bold choices on a dancefloor wowed us and got her a residency at The Observatory in Ho Chi Minh City. I’d also like to mention Layzie, a super talented producer from Serbia whose tracks have been a part of my recent sets. One of the producers who’s been on my radar is also Silvestre from Portugal. His fresh approach to dance music and the combination of acid, breakbeat and weird vocals really caught my ear. Also from Portugal, Príncipe Discos, a label that mixes contemporary dance music with traditional African rhythms and sounds from the Lisbon slums and suburbs.
ES: Who or what inspires you musically?
TVC: A lot of my inspiration is drawn from the music I grew up with – soul, R&B, acid jazz and gems from the 80s, especially from Yugoslavia. Techa, another DJ who is part of Atipik, is my constant inspiration – that’s one of the reasons you can hear us playing b2b sets often. Hibiya Line from The Observatory is someone who pushes my music boundaries and hearing him play always brings a different approach to how I perceive club music, same as Telephones with whom I had the pleasure of playing with at Savage for Snug’s anniversary in 2019.
ES: Tell us about your radio mix!
TVC: For me, it’s always difficult to put together a mix at home, trying to showcase what I currently play because while playing, the connection and energy exchange between the DJ and the crowd is very important to me. This mix is a medley of some of my current favorites and some classics that I’ve been playing for a while. A journey through acid grooves, house-y rhythms and hypnotic vocals, laced with some breakbeat goodness and basslines.
Listen to Teodora Van Context’s exclusive guest mix for Electric Soul below.