On curating a live music programme and venue, this is what Charles Guo, Juliana Lima, Jasmine Li, and Kristóf Géczi have to say.
Photographer Charles Guo, renowned in fashion circles, opened a proper house and techno club this past January called 44KW, located in Shanghai’s Found158 food and party circus. Fitted with a gleaming Void Acoustics soundsystem, it has made a bold (and pricey) play for the top techno joint in town.
“As you know, most clubs in China are commercial, and its really hard for young people to find a place which has good [underground] electronic music and good sound quality,” says Guo. “How can we spread electronic music culture to them? I’ve been thinking about this thing for long time. That’s the main reason me and my partner opened this space”.
On consistency and vibrancy, Guo remarks, “I think it is very important to stay consistent. For now, we are trying to balance our ‘ideal’ with commercial realities. You need to know what you want, but meanwhile also stay open-minded towards the market. Shanghai is a special and diverse city – we have to find our own way”.
Beijing techno DJ and club promoter Juliana Lima concurs. “Personally I’ve always stuck to my gut. As a DJ and promoter, I have tried different music styles in the past but it just didn’t work for me. I couldn’t feel what I was playing and I didn’t want to act like I was. It takes a lot of support from the local DJs and techno lovers”.
Brazil-born Lima’s well-respected Get Connected parties have generated a loyal gathering these past four years in Beijing’s subterranean after-dark scene, at clubs like underground fixture Lantern and others. The house music is consistently melodic, progressive and deep. The Get Connected brand has since has expanded into a music studio that focuses on metal and electronic music tunes, as well as a sub-project called Get Connected Brazil, a partnership with the Embassy of Brazil in Beijing. The project focuses on bringing Brazilian electronic DJs to perform in the mainland.
Lima’s motivation? Simply her passion for this type of music. “I want to help grow the [techno and house] scene in China,” she tells us. “The scene is still young, so for us [foreign promoters] that been here for over 10 years, we’ve been part of it from the very beginning, pushing and supporting each other”.
If you’ve been out in Shanghai the last three years during the naughty hours of the night, Celia has been on your itinerary. Opening at 2am, busy at 4am, and closing at 11am, Celia is another one that has stuck to its guns in the past years.
Co-founder, resident DJ, and music director Jasmine Li left Celia in 2018, and arguably so did much of the venue’s soul. Li helped create the unique identity of the club, but with even more difficulty, maintain it – for three years – with a laser-like focus on the music she still believes in today.
The legendary underground proprietress, a charming Guangzhou native with thirteen years in Shanghai and three successful clubs under her belt, knows a thing or two about sticking to the plan. “Changing your venue’s musical style should only be done if your own personal style changes radically,” she says. “If you keep changing your musical style and identity, that shows me you lost your focus, and maybe even your passion and sold your soul”.
For years, Li stayed strong and fought to preserve the core musical identity of her venue – a safe haven for lovers of Ibiza-style melodic techno and deep house – because she didn’t want to waste the time and reputation she had built up beforehand. “I didn’t want my project to lose its identity, reputation, and most importantly the people… the fans of our original musical principles”.
Another big piece of creating a strong musical brand is, of course, the bookings you choose. “I created a musical guideline for the venue, and to choose my bookings, I used my ears and my heart to make sure that the artist’s style matches Celia’s style” Li tells us. “We never wanted to lost the musical style of the place, the style that we created from nothing. Of course every artist sounds different, but their sound should line up with what I wanted to create”.
NOVA Shanghai, Psyhai, Panama, TGTR, Space Panda… no, these are not comic book characters. They are the names of roving club nights that have been rocking the Shanghai nighttime radar for the past 18 months.
Twenty-eight year old Hungarian Kristóf Géczi and his cronies at WinWin Agency are behind them, and their booking choices are crucial to their brand’s DNA. “We are not necessarily the ‘how-many-Facebook-likes-does-this-act-have’ kind of promoters,” muses Géczi. “I really like to work with artists who have some nice material which we can use for promotion – photos, relevant recent [record] releases, a cool performance video – anything that can help to hype up the crowd”.
Promoting consistent and niche-focused music events in today’s mainland China isn’t easy, and demands more time and dedication than many people realize. Says Géczi: “This is my day job. Me and the team are on this 24/7, 365. I would quote Citizenn, an amazing producer whom we just hosted [at one of our recent parties] at W Hotel Shanghai. He said ‘there is no chilling in this game’ and I can only agree with this”.
About The Contributor
Eric Reithler-Barros has 19 years of international branding and business development experience, and holds an MBA from Thunderbird. His experience ranges from SFX Entertainment/Livestyle, Level3 Communications, Verizon, A2LiVE/STORM Festival, LimeWire and many others. He is also a professional electronic music DJ and producer for 28 years, has released over 100 records, launched 4 house/techno labels, promoted hundreds of club events and festivals, and spoken at the biggest music industry conferences around the world. He currently heads Fold Artists in Shanghai.