The gritty heart of Moldova’s DIY party underground

With DIY parties and diverse music nights, ProSănătate has become a local favourite for non-mainstream fun in the Moldovan capital.

13 May 2020

Since its opening two years ago, ProSănătate (or Pro-Health in English) has become the centre for alternative nightlife in Moldova’s capital city Chișinău. Taking its tongue-in-cheek name from the health and beauty clinic on the floor above, the bar-club has attracted diverse communities with its cheap drinks, free snacks, and DIY music events ranging from electronic raves to manele parties, old vinyl nights, and heavy metal gigs.

Von Aim, a UX designer by day and DJ by night, organises the regular music nights, called Altă Party (or Other Party in English). He says that his aim has been to create “musical diversity”, and that ProSănătate has offered a space “for musical experiment, from ambient to breakcore, and from acoustic rock to grindcore”.

“What I like most about ProSănătate is the fact that you can organise your own themed and curated parties there, and [the owner] Usama is open to that. I co-organised and DJ-ed two nights, one of Romanian manele, and the other one based on a principle that first appeared in Santiago de Chile — Baila como quieras (or Dance As You Want, with no judgment), which included feminine hip hop, cumbia, queer Brazillian reggae, and other contemporary Latin American music, ” says club regular, translator and activist Ana M Popa.

The bar is also open to more than just musical diversity. The regulars are a mix of middle and working class customers, Romanian and Russian speakers, and young subcultures. ProSănătate’s owner, Usama Abed, who moved from Palestine to Moldova to study medicine 30 years ago, says he opened it for everything and anything, from concerts and parties to weddings and cumătrii (a traditional Orthodox baptism or confirmation party). Sometimes he makes falafel and hummus, and gives away free nibbles. “I like to see well-fed people,” he told The Calvert Journal.

Documentary photographer Ramin Mazur says that for him, ProSănătate is a “refuge” from the routine and self-isolation he falls into because of the freelance nature of his work.

“ProSănătate is open to everything new and hosts everything possible,” Cristian Doroftei, a journalist and regular, told The Calvert Journal. “Those who cross the threshold are aware they can’t ask for a lot, that’s part of the charm of the place.” In more concrete terms, that means the bar has low ceilings, toilets with broken locks, and occasional power outages, Doroftei explains.

Yet for all of its other forms of diversity, the bar doesn’t always attract the widest possible clientele. At some parties, you can have dozens of men and only a few women, Ana M Popa says. To a certain extent the gender balance is due to a lack of women DJs and organisers — Popa being one of the few to take the stage. “Some women feel uncomfortable because of that [imbalance],” Popa says.

“But there’s no alternative to ProSănătate,” activist Andrei Lutenco says. “It’s the only place where you can have fun without spending lots of money.”

Follow photographer Ramin Mazur on Instagram.

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