Calavera and Manya



One of Beats Travel’s favourite destinations, for so many reasons, is Serbia. One of the reasons is the people, and we have been lucky enough to join forces with duo Calavera and Manya, and call them our friends. These guys have started making some major moves in the music world, and will be playing at Exit Festival’s Dance Arena in 2016. We can’t wait to share the good vibes with them during Balkan Beats, but we wanted to share some of their story with you, including the amazing resilience of Manya, who has been diagnosed with a rare, and life threatening illness. The guys were kind enough to answer a few questions for us about their music, the underground dance scene in Belgrade, and 4 Manya, the charity they have set up to help out with Manya’s medical costs.


You guys have just been announced as part of the EXIT Festival Dance Arena line up for 2016, on a scale of one to awesome, what does this mean to you guys as artists as well as personally?

It’s a dream come true! From 2004/05 we’ve been regular visitors on EXIT festival. Daydreaming about standing at Dance Arena stage, which is one the best in Europe. Two years ago we got an invitation to play on one smaller EXIT stage, then next year one bigger EXIT stage and now the biggest one and most popular one. We will be sharing the stage this year with Solomun, Nina Kravitz, Hernan Cattaneo, Richie Hawtin, Marco Carola and much more. We will, of course, do a warm up set but it’s an honour itself to be there and probably a peak time of our career so far! Also, this year we are invited to be EXIT ambassadors and we are looking forward to collaborating with EXIT. 


Has it been one of the milestones of your career?

Yes, indeed it has. 


Are you planning anything special for your set that fans won’t have experienced before?

We are technically speaking testing half DJ – half live act performance. If we manage to prepare it on time it will be premiered at EXIT. Musically speaking you will hear a lot of unreleased tunes, edits and mashups from the Calavera & Manya crate.


What were your experiences playing at Lovefest like in 2015?

Last year we were also invited to play on LoveFest, which is from year to year getting bigger and bigger. Unfortunately, Manya couldn’t perform due to his health issues but the whole set was dedicated to him. 


You started making music together in 2012, what have been the biggest ups and downs for you?

Our biggest ups were the fact that our first single “I Feel (Siente Me)” became a worldwide success with 50+ countries charting it on iTunes, Beatport and Shazam. From that point we got a chance to remix legendary Lovebirds, playing around the region and realising that you can live from what you love and meet many amazing people. 

Biggest down is Manya’s health problems (he was diagnosed with rare sarcoma disease). But we are beating it down so far the best we can!


What is 4 Manya?

It became a project in June 2015 that is collecting aid for Manya. He was diagnosed with rare sarcoma disease and since that we are aiming to collect 120.000 euros for his treatment. We have collected around 90.000 euros, but he now needs a around 48.000 euros for new sarcoma drugs that are pretty expensive so he can continue his treatment. Since then we did two big parties Dance4Manya festival in Belgrade and Xajka4Manya in Zrenjanin which collected 50.000 euros alone. If anyone wants to donate and help Manya he can do it here http://bit.ly/Donate4Manya


You have had major success with your music, in particular last years hit ‘I Feel’, what do you find inspiration in?

It was a story that we wrote about the guy who got disappointed in love and finding his way back to it. A story that we all know in one-way or another… It’s pretty personal for both of us.


There is an increasingly huge underground music scene emerging in Serbia, how does your style fit into this?

Serbia is currently blooming with the parties and new names that are DJing and making music. Somehow the circumstances are good all around the world for clubbing, therefore, Serbia is following this expansion. 

As for our style – we are more and more based around the world, Ethno, organic blend of sounds with house and techno genres that we are constantly trying to emulate through our production. We can be mainstream or underground but we are always making music with the purpose. 


Belgrade is one of Beats Travels favourite destinations, from a local’s perspective what is the best thing about your city?

The energy of people. Here people party from Monday to Sunday. Especially in summer. Whoever comes here gets lifted by the energy of people that always love to drink, eat and have fun.


What is the party and club scene like? What sort of music do you generally hear?

It’s colourful. You can listen to every genre almost from dub minimal techno experimental sounds at Drugstore to funky disco at 20/44. In between are all genres of house and techno music in clubs like The Tube, Mint, Monsun, Mr. Stefan Braun, The Dot and much more. Plus, in Belgrade, we have a new spot in Cetinjska Street where you can check out new clubs like Kenozoik and Elektropionir. You can go mainstream or underground – it’s your choice.  But mostly you can listen to house, tech house and techno.


What sort of music do you listen to?

We are lately listening to a lot of classical music from Frédéric Chopin and the funky/disco/world music/oldschool rap sounds from Radio Nula http://radionula.com/, we usually listen to everything but the electronic dance music. 


What does Calavera and Manya stand for?

If you are asking about the words itself – Calavera means “skull” in Spanish but it’s a shorter name from Manuel Calavera, a Grim Fandango game character, an agent of death stuck in Limbo, selling tickets for heaven. I played it as a kid and loved it so much that stuck with me since 1998. 

Manya is shorter from Nemanja (his name) but it also means “skill” in Spanish (maña).

What we stand for in our music for good music and good vibes that makes people smile 🙂


After Exit Festival, what is on the horizon for Calavera and Manya?

Manya is back from Germany. He is now in his city of Velika Plana (Serbia) with his family. We are currently releasing a new Seta EP that features remixes by John Belk, Igor Krsmanovic and Millok. It’s a superb release and we are looking forward to it. Also we will try to finish as much as we can remixes for Lovebirds, Afgo and many more. From June our main focus will be making music and collecting additional funds for Manya’s treatment. There’s a few side projects with some great parties and also a few festivals that we will perform (EXIT Festival, Arsenal Fest, HillsUp and a few still unconfirmed).