Though not particularly venerated in South Korea itself, K-pop parties have gained traction outside the Korean peninsula in territories both expected and surprising – throughout Brazil, China, North America and South-East Asia. The infectious spread of hallyu (the Korean wave) is undeniable, and perceptive club managers and DJs are hopping on the K-pop bandwagon. Singapore’s no exception, and our party scene is set to receive a heady hit of hallyu in the form of new regular nights at The Butter Factory and Attica.
‘These nights are getting more popular, and are especially growing in popularity among the Koreans living here,’ says DJ Raw, Attica’s resident decksmith, who has also presided over residencies at Phuture and St James Power Station. Dubbing himself one of only two local DJs who regularly spins K-pop tracks (the other being DJ Funky T), Raw is helming Attica’s new weekly Korean night, which will take place every Saturday starting this month. ‘For me, there is no need for [regular pop] music to rock the crowd,’ he says. ‘I can depend on Korean music 100 per cent for a four-hour set.’
Celeste Chong, marketing director for The Butter Factory – who recently launched the club’s weekly GAJA! (meaning ‘Let’s go!’) parties on Thursdays – agrees with Raw’s sentiments. ‘Nobody can deny K-pop’s growing popularity,’ she says. ‘And since there aren’t many parties on a Thursday night, The Butter Factory decided to indulge in this growing trend and guilty pleasure.’
For GAJA!’s kick-off event in December, Butter imported Seoul beatsmiths BeatBurger (the duo of Sim Jae Won and Gregory Hwang) from SM Entertainment, who boast an impressive résumé of choreographing dance routines for massive groups such as TVXQ, Girls’ Generation (aka SNSD), Shinee, 2PM and Super Junior. Their presence here certainly lent weight to Butter’s efforts to establish a permanent K-pop-themed party in Singapore, with much applause (and dancing) from the local followers.
‘I hadn’t heard of a regular K-pop night in Singapore [before ours],’ says Chong, ‘but if its popularity grows, I don’t doubt that clubs will catch on and start their own K-pop nights.’ The current resident is Jonathan Kang, aka DJ Burger Kang, an artist manager at Butter who adopted his DJ moniker after stepping up to the decks specifically for GAJA! Originally an artist manager, Kang began deejaying just for Butter’s Thursday slot – learning the ropes from house resident DJ Stanley. ‘I lived in Korea for most of my life, and I do listen to Korean songs,’ he says. ‘It was easy for me to start mixing K-pop with current dance music.’
Both The Butter Factory and Attica are making bold statements in establishing regular K-pop nights; other clubs have hosted recent one-off events, such as Dbl O. Last April the revamped art-deco nightspot hosted an annual K-Raze party helmed by Brazilian K-pop specialist DJ Masa, who was brought in by local events company Jig Asia. ‘I never expected to be in Singapore one day, and that was a turning point in my career,’ he says. ‘K-pop has really been catching on in Brazil. Last year was the beginning of the real wave. We had lots of small events with cover groups and music, and in December we had the first concert in Brazil.’
K-Raze also received rave reviews from the esoteric local clique fans. ‘We realise that this music has what it takes to be the next big thing in the world,’ says Cash Tan, managing director of Jig Asia. ‘Then we realised there are no K-pop parties to attend, even though there are so many followers who keep asking for such parties.’ Each of Jig Asia’s K-pop events so far has been a sold-out affair. ‘We didn’t expect so many fans in Singapore at first,’ admits Tan. ‘But now we have even attracted calls from neighbouring countries to organise K-pop parties there too, which we take as a compliment.’
But is all of this enough to make it a continuing trend? ‘I think its popularity will last for quite a while,’ says The Butter Factory’s Kang. K-Raze’s Masa agrees: ‘Korean music and pop culture are already trending, and K-pop nights are just one more point for K-poppers to gather and have fun.’
This story first appeared as 'Shinee happy people' (Feb 2012).
Read more: How to K-party in Singapore