Without taking their eyes off a screen that broadcasts colorful video clips full of visual effects, a group of young people repeat the steps of the choreography shown. When the music changes, whoever knows how to dance goes to the middle of the floor.
When a hit by the group BTS starts playing, the audience screams and the atmosphere is reminiscent of a concert, with people singing the lyrics and dancing. In the setlist, only pop from South Korea.
The scene is part of K-Party Maniac, a party held last Saturday in São Paulo, but it sets the tone for what K-pop clubs are like. These specialized events have been occupying more nights in São Paulo, with a growing audience — this month alone, three more are scheduled.
Asian nightclubs are not necessarily new and have been happening here for around ten years. “This niche already existed before BTS broke out, but you only discovered it if you were a fan,” says Michele Rocha, founder of K-Party Maniac.
A fan of Korean culture, Rocha traveled from Curitiba to São Paulo to attend similar events and missed attractions in the south of the country. He decided to organize his own party in June last year, and the 500 tickets for sale were sold out.
Six other editions followed — the first in the capital of São Paulo welcomed 400 people at Teatro Mars. The event was held in partnership with the owner of Wabar, a restaurant and bar in Bom Retiro that became a meeting point for Koreans and Brazilians in a flirtatious atmosphere.
Saturday’s party seemed like an extension of that scenario. Rocha says that the K-Party audience is mostly made up of women, but the number of men was greater.
“I noticed a large presence of the Asian community, and it seemed like most men didn’t like K-pop,” he says. “They tend to be present at parties because they know that girls like Asians, and at clubs they like them much more.”
To attract people beyond the community and fans of Asian culture, South Korean Jung Ki Lee created the Next Level party mixing music from his country with funk, international pop and electronica.
“The aim was to try to dilute Korean culture and break prejudice. Many people think that K-pop is for children”, says Jung. “I was one of the audience at these parties, I went because I felt more included, but the demand was not suppressed.”
In almost two years, the ballad established itself as one of the largest of its kind, bringing together 3,450 people, and had editions in Belo Horizonte, Campinas, Rio de Janeiro, Goiânia, Curitiba and Brasília. The next São Paulo version is on September 23rd.
One of the pioneers among Asian pop clubs in the country is A-Party, founded in 2012, a time when the phenomena BTS and Blackpink didn’t even exist. Event producer Glauber Monteiro did not know the music from South Korea, which the public requested at their parties.
He then organized a small ballad, as a test, which was successful. The party started playing only K-pop, became itinerant and now has one edition per month in São Paulo. The next one celebrates 11 years this Saturday (16).
“It’s a ballad like any other,” he says. “There are people who go out to make out, who go out to dance, drink or just hang out in the smokehouse. But the sound and the audience are different.” In addition to the music, the highlight are cover groups and dancers who perform at the venue.
The search for a party that suited his musical style was also what motivated Gabriel Caetano to create Rookie, at the end of last year. DJs play playlists only from K-pop girl groups, especially recent ones.
The party began by occupying one night a month at Irregular, a venue that closed its activities in Barra Funda, and became itinerant — the next one will be on the 22nd, at Casa da Luz.
Caetano says, however, that there is still resistance from clubs in São Paulo to play South Korean pop at parties that are not of the genre. “But the style is becoming commercial.”
“Other clubs don’t need extra appeal, people go because they like clubs”, says Michele Rocha, from K-Party Maniac. But those with Korean culture need to bring other incentives to attract the public, she adds. Hence the performances by professional dancers and the inclusion of Korean food and drinks on the menu.
Rocha sees these Asian pop events as a space for K-pop fans to identify with each other and feel comfortable dancing. “These are people you wouldn’t see behaving this way elsewhere. There’s that fear of judgment about liking K-pop,” she says.
In addition to the music, the audience at these parties is drawn to the aesthetics of South Korean pop. The looks are full of colorful clothes, including sparkles, chains, ties, pleated skirts and cropped tops, in an attempt to imitate the style of the idols who appear in the attention-grabbing music videos.
Marquês Station – av. Marquês de São Vicente, 412, Barra Funda, western region, @apartybrasil. Sat. (16), at 11:30 pm. 18 years. From R$65, at Sympla
Follow the schedule at @kpartymaniac
Vip Station – r. Gibraltar, 346, Santo Amaro, southern region, @next.theclub. Sat. (23), from 11pm to 6am. 18 years. From R$35, in Doity
Casa da Luz – r. Mauá, 512, Centro, @rookie.sp. Fri. (22), from 10pm to 6am. 18 years. From R$ 15, in Shotgun