Gatvės Lyga: 10 years of hiphop radio in Lithuania
Last night, the legendary long-running hiphop radio show "Gatvės Lyga" (Street League) celebrated ten years of broadcasting in Lithuania.
A truly historic project, and one of the most important institutions in Lithuania's cultural history, Gatvės Lyga has literally inspired a generation of young people and created a vibrant and positive hiphop community. You've probably heard that kind of hype before, but this is for real.
Starting up in the isolation of a tiny ex-soviet republic, before PCs and home internet were available, before CD burners, before record shops and before cheap flights to the West, Gatvės Lyga was the only way for young Lithuanians to access the world of hiphop. Every week, they put together a show that kids would listen to religiously, in their own language, from their own perspective. I have heard so many people tell me what an amazing feeling it was waiting for the show to start, and it was very emotional to hear more memories during the 10th anniversary broadcast last night.
Mamania, Svaras, Mironas and Mantini carefully promoted positivity, pride, history and identity to people that desperately needed it. Behind the normal jokes and playfights, this was a very serious business, and now we are older I can see just how serious it was.
Mark Splinter, Mironas, Svaras, Mantini, Def One, Jeff Metal, Arro
Jeff Metal 2004
Mark Splinter, Mironas, Svaras, Mantini, Def One, Jeff Metal, Arro

Mamania vs Mark Splinter

The first time I heard about Mamania, I was in Lithuania for my very first week, making a documentary about a young hiphop crew called Fresh Rice. I heard a rumour that Mamania complained "This guy is in Lithuania making a hiphop documentary, and I'm not in it?"
I laughed, I thought it was his DJ ego talking, but he was right. Since then, I have had the pleasure of working with him many times, and I can tell you he is the best, most professional, most dedicated DJ in Lithuania. I don't need to say more than that.

Svaras vs Mark Splinter

I had the privilege of spending 10 hours in a minibus with Svaras, on the way to a gig in Poland. And 10 hours back again. During this time I can only remember that he was drinking beer, eating chicken and shouting "HEY, MY FRIEND FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY" at me, every five minutes. After 3 hours this became funny, instead of annoying. My affection for Svaras increased when I saw how he performs, and the obvious love he has for his community and his music. He makes it look simple and easy, but it's not. He acts like he don't give a fuck, but he's deadly serious.

Mironas vs Mark Splinter

I met Mironas in a cafe called "Soho", a thousand miles away from Soho. I was introduced by Def One, the beatboxer who first invited me to Lithuania. I had no idea who this strange, monk-like, quietly spoken expert chef was, or why I was meeting him. He was very suspicious of me, and it was almost impossible to get him to talk. After the interview I found out that he is the chief hiphop historian of Lithuania, the oldest of the oldskool, and one of the most influential people in youth culture to this day. I think he was suspicious of me because I might get the facts wrong, and I might not understand that Lithuania has its own hiphop culture. After six years living here, I have learnt the facts, seen the culture, and realised why I was very lucky to meet this guy.

Mantini vs Mark Splinter

I knew their show was the only alternative show in the country, so I thought maybe they would be interested in playing some drumnbass. My mate Spoona, owner of Cutterz Choice in London, flew out to play some parties with me, and we were invited to appear on Gatvės Lyga by Danish Stef*.
I took a CD with some tunes on it, but Stef warned me that they never ever play drumnbass on Gatvės Lyga, it would be like pissing in a church. We were rushed into the studio while a track was playing on air, and I gave the CD to Mantini. He knew I was promoting drumnbass, so he asked: "Is this drumnbass?"
I said something like "no, not really, maybe, try it and see". He faded it in... and I will never forget his face. After about 60 uncomfortable seconds, he faded it out. I think the track was "Sneaker Pimp" by Benny Page. Maybe someone can find a recording, because as far as I know, this was the first time drumnbass was heard on Lithuanian radio.
Since then Mantini has been very helpful and friendly to me, and I will never forget those nights, frozen in a tiny portacabin outside the city, wondering how the hell I got there.

Give these guys medals

The President of Lithuania should have a huge public ceremony and give these guys medals for their work. I am not exaggerating, it makes perfect sense. If you can get a medal for throwing a basketball into a hole a few times, then I calculate that these guys deserve about 1000 golden horses.

*Danish Stef (Supacide) is a turntablist from Denmark who helped Lithuanian hiphop, and me, in a very big way. I wish he would come back to Vilnius, even if he is an asshole.

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