You may have seen the name TOTEM around the clubs recently, or even had the pleasure of seeing them live. The DJ collective has an organic house sound, with plenty of vocals, totally enjoyable and accessible for any music lover, and with their bohemian styled parties they are garnering a large following and respect from their peers as they grow in stature around town.
The Beat spoke to one of the founders of TOTEM, Ilya Smetanin, also known as Stay Golden, who works feverishly to get the group playing in as many venues around town as he can, while honing his own playlist to get the party pumping. Ilya is from Russia and I wanted to ask him first, among other things, what TOTEM is all about.
“TOTEM started in Bali almost 1 year ago. It consists of DJs and producers who have made their mark on the global music scene through residencies at renowned labels such as All Day I Dream, Cade de Anatolia, London Bloop Radio, Kośa, Cosmovision, and Leveldva. Their collective fusion of music and art has become a signature element of Totem, creating immersive experiences that in our opinion help to elevate the nightlife scene.”
Who is involved and where are you from?
“The founders were myself and Jose, while our mainstay DJs are Stay Golden, Jose, Izhevski and Ossadi. We are all from Russia and we bring an international party here to Bali.”
How did the Totem collective come together?
“We all met originally at Burning Man events over the years. We became friends there first, thru the music and the scene, you know. Then later everyone was here in Bali and we decided to start our own thing, and we called it TOTEM. Many of our friends also live in Bali now so Bali connected us all.”
Has your crew released tracks on the labels you mentioned above?
“Our residents, yes. Mixes and tracks and myself included.”
How would you describe the TOTEM sound?
“It’s a music journey, we start from downtempo and go higher/harder through the set. Organic, afro house and then get it jumping with some melodic techno.”
How was it finding gigs around Bali at the beginning?
“We had no problems with it. When we showed the venues the concept and told them about our experience – almost all venues were ready to try us.”
You seem to be pulling large crowds now when you play. Where are those people from? Tourists, or locals? How have you seen your shows progressing?
“Both. We are trying to push the mission where we connect people from all over the world. 65% are tourists , other guests are expats or locals. Every event we buy new decorations, create some new content for projections. We do hand made graffiti design of decorations by ourselves, trying to give new emotions to our guests every event. We are growing, try to bring big names to venues, work better on marketing and other aspects to make every our event bigger and bigger.
I understand you and your friends are organizing a bigger show, a Bali Burning Man style event. Tell us about that.
“Yes, we are doing a regional burn here in Bali. It’s called Lampu and it will be held next year. Like Burning Man there will be theme camps where different people and groups bring their ideas and creativity to the event, set up their space and show the world, or at least attendees at the event.
Theme camps will be the heartbeat of the event. They bring the dance floors, different food, stage theater performances, and even offer spiritual experiences. It’s like a cosmic buffet of activities!”
So you supply the area and they do everything else, come with the stage, the power, the show. Are you expecting trucks and trailers like BM?
“It’s a burning man-ish style festival, organized by friends, all built by friends and also some infrastructure from Nuanu City. People need to apply with their idea and camp/ art etc. Once approved they then bring everything and build their site there. It is like the Burning Man in the desert – the same, but in the jungles of Bali.
Lampu will be a non-commercial festival and it’s put together by our friends and us. Everyone is welcome to join in.”
You told me you have an upcoming release on Cafe de Anatolia. How is the track?
“It’s called Spirit of Truth with remixes from Waxwood, Cataree and Max Degrand, Aza Sirelis. We are finalizing remixes and I think it will be out at the end of this year, or start of the next.”
Where can people find TOTEM playing over the next month?
Tabu, Savaya, Tropical Temptation Beach Club and Kabana.
Find Totem on Instagram