Klub K4 (Club K4) is one of the oldest and most iconic underground clubs in Slovenia. It's situated in Ljubljana, Kersnikova 4, a location full of past and stories. If you're a music enthusiast or have a spot for alternative venues, we're going to take you on a journey of K4's cultural inheritance.
The beginnings of the Klub K4 are tied with the group FV 112/15 that organized student parties at Disko Študent (Student Disco) in Ljubljana's campus Rožna valley back in 1981. Slovenia was still a part of Yugoslavia back then, but things were slowly starting to fall apart. The rock and punk era were at their highest, and people were full of anger and disappointment over their current economic situation. If you want to understand the music that people were into and their need for the alternative scene, you need to comprehend the period that people and especially the youth went through.
This period was kind of a turning point which enabled people to gather freely in spaces they've preferred, people started listening new genres and they've slowly formed a new culture that wasn't seen or suggested before. The eager for discovering the unknown things, things that the system didn't show or allowed before, was blossoming all over the socialist regime. For various different reasons, the crew of Disko Študent had to move their parties to another location in Šiška, at Dom Mladih (The Youth Centre). But the nearby neighbors soon started to complain (that's a common problem anywhere in Slovenia) about the noise, so the organization had to find a neutral place. When Disko FV opened on Kersnikova 4, it was one of the first locations in Ljubljana, where alternative culture grew its roots.
Helena Blagne, Photo by Miha Fras
Disko FV (Disco FV) started to operate under the Centre for Youth Activities (Center za interesno dejavnost mladih - CIDM) on 13th June 1984 with a simple slogan; "tradition + innovation". They took over the abandoned dormitory spaces and an unrestored basement, where K4 is now located. The place belonged to ŠOU, a local student organization, that landed their space for alternative student activities. CIDM operated for a year but soon fell into a money-related conflict with ŠOU. This problem grew over time, but K4 managed to evolve under it.
The 25th of May was very important in Yugoslavia. It was the birthday of its leader Tito and it was later declared as the "Youth Day" (Dan mladosti). K4 officially opened its doors on 25th May 1989; it was the year when Europe was going through some big changes that also heavily reflected our region. Yugoslavia was on the edge of a breakdown, and as former socialist countries slowly started to declare their independence, people were living in the unknown territory.
They've "escaped" into alternative places where they were able to gather, party and most of all, feel comfortable. When K4 opened, it was one of the few places that offered various artists of publicly unknown music to perform. The first program manager was Jure Potokar, now a renowned literary translator, writer and music expert, especially for jazz and blues. He pushed forward all alternative types at that time: electronic music, rock, hip-hop, disco and classical concerts.
It was Aldo Ivančić that projected the club a little bit more towards the electronic music direction. Nights such as "Technodrom" were influenced by records from Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire, and many others. This period gave birth to some of Slovenian most iconic DJ's such as Umek, Random Logic, April Nine, ... K4 was also one of the first venues that openly welcomed LGBT community with so-called "Pink Saturdays".
The electronic music era
In the year 2000, the Institute K6/4 (Zavod K6/4) took over the leadership due to another dispute between the Student organisation and ŠOU; the venue owners. They've started managing other places and galleries such as Kapelica, RampaLab, BioTechna and others. K4 took another turn and focused only on underground electronic music, pushing forward techno, house, minimal, drum N bass, hip-hop, funk, disco and other genres. With this decision, K4 became the icon and the symbol of Ljubljana's alternative scene.
As mentioned above "Technodrom" nights were very popular and musically forward thinking at the time. DJ's such as Aldo Ivančić, who curated the nights, Random Logic (Miha Zemljič and Miha Klemenčič) and Aprile Nine (Peter Penko) were making an impact on the local scene. Other important individuals that left an important mark are AliEn, Primož Pečovnik, Brane Zorman, Peter Barbarič, Aida Kurtović, Rolando, Jane Weber, Jure Longyka, Jimi Rasta and others. Regular arguments with the owners continued which lead to several changes in clubs leadership. At some point, the club went broke and the structure had to change.
At the 20th anniversary, the organizers prepared a miniature festival "Utrip" to respect the club's repute. The scenery was brought to Križanke, an open space venue designed by Slovenia's prestige architect Jože Plečnik, where activities and parties, with a special guest Bonobo, were celebrated all day. They wanted to show to the public that the alternative spirit has grown and to bring people closer to K4's culture.
Over the course of years, program leadership has changed several times, but K4 has always managed to maintain a well-known relaxed atmosphere and offer visitors the program they couldn't find elsewhere. In 2015, there were rumors going around Ljubljana that we've finally seen the last of it. Instead of this, K4 was taken over by a crew with much different experience.
The new owners previously owned quite a few commercially successful bars, clubs and restaurants around the city. With adding K4 to their list, this meant only two things: the underground status of K4 was going to end or it may actually transform into a well-working club that brings people from abroad to the capital. The image of the club took a step forward and upgraded its sound system, erased the graffiti paintings and modernized it with led-light vibes. The club organizers focused on creating a strong platform of local artists with adding internationally respected acts such as DJ Hell, Steffi, Martin Buttrich, Francesco Del Garda, Phil Weeks, Sakro, Efdemin, Uner, Hito, San Proper, Jus-Ed and many others.
In cooperation with numerous organizational and creative teams from all over Slovenia, K4 remains the leading institution for quality contemporary urban music, which represents more than 40,000 visitors annually. The club offers a program full of various music genres, whether it's minimal, house, techno, drum N bass, breakbeat, funk, nu rave, electro, hip-hop, rock, and trap.
The main purpose of K4 is to present electronic musical guidelines and novelties before they come to the mainstream, to move genre boundaries and to educate youth on the development and history of music. With technicalities causing no more problems, the club runs smoothly during the season. But like all cultural institutions at some point, K4 will go through a rough period that will determine its path in the future.
Successful clubs are often at a crossroad: if the money becomes the number one priority, the integrity is at risk. With Ambasada Gavioli closing its door in January 2018, K4 will stand as Slovenia's number one electronic music institution. But only the future's gonna show if they can preserve the status.