The country of Georgia is currently living in an era that has elements of Post-Sovietism and modern liberalism colliding. Stemming from a Russian Orthodox background, the government has been holding onto conservative values that have been heavily applied to drug regulation. Strict drug policies have led to 20,000 people being jailed in the last eleven years, and being imprisoned for drugs often carries a longer sentence than other crimes such as rape and terrorism. One of the victims of Georgia’s harsh drug laws is DJ Michail Todua. Todua has been in jail for the past five years, but being confined and limited has only spurred his creative process.
Todua is originally from the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, and there he worked as a party promoter and DJ. He was randomly stopped and taken in for drug testing where shortly after he was sentenced to nine years behind bars. His life in jail has not been the worst, as he has been allowed to develop a make-shift studio and produce music. After convincing his wife to buy him music gear and receiving permission from the jail, he was able to begin making music again.
This didn’t come without difficulty. With only a laptop, headphones, a few synthesizers and traditional Georgian folk instruments, Todua has little to work with. He also has no access to the internet so any tutorials on music production are unreachable and ALL new music is given to him on a USB made by friends. There’s also a time limit imposed on him as he is only allowed five hours a day for five days a week in the studio.
Through his own efforts, Todua has been able to make a number of musical accomplishments. He has scored a number of prison plays and released an EP on Login Records under the name Michailo. The biggest of his accomplishments includes a live performance at 2017’s Electronauts ceremony. Performing at this ceremony – dedicated to Georgia’s techno talent – marked a huge victory for the liberal movement in Georgia. It brought to light how the country’s strict drug laws are incarcerating influential members of society unjustly.
The liberal movement carried by various organizations in Georiga is already showing its positive impact. Todua is set to have an early release in May and this allows him to play his dark brand of techno on bigger stages. His production quality may also be taken up a notch as his wife’s efforts include a more comprehensive studio for him. While Georgia has some growing to do socially and politically, Todua’s story of pushing boundaries shows that progress is achievable.
Watch the techno producer’s live performance at Electronauts below to get a taste of what he has in store.