BEHIND THE AUSSIE BUSH DOOF DEBUTING IN BALI THIS MONTH
It’s not often a bush doof is held anywhere other than in the bush but social influencer-come-event-planner, Kai Suteja (see: @urmumsyadad), doesn’t care much for stereotypes – unless he is making fun of them.
With little more than a dark imagination, some good local contacts and a 350K following across Instagram and Facebook, Kai is throwing his own party this month on a block of land in Seminyak, Bali.
The festival, titled Gypsy Lands, has adopted somewhat of an ironic tone in its marketing but is no joke when it comes to entertainment. Set to host a half pipe, cage fights, a maze, a fetish room, a wedding chapel, a tattoo and piercing den, tarot readings and international DJs, its 2000+ punters should have plenty to entertain themselves with.
Paige Leacey caught up with Kai (who is half Balinese) in person on the ‘Island of Gods’ to talk marketing, kindergarten and what the locals think about his new business venture.
So, the festival, how did this project come about?
I moved back here [to Bali] in November and one day this kid I went to kindergarten with, who was my best friend and hadn't seen in 20 years, came up to me and was like “Are you Kai? I’m Putu, we went to kindergarten together.” I was like, phwooar brain warp, and we started hanging. Obviously, I like to party and we were partying quite a bit and the one night I asked, “Why is there no good festivals in Bali?” He was like, “Well, actually I own heaps of land. Do you want to check it out?” We went and checked it out and then thought, f*** it, we should totally do a bush doof in Bali.
Tell me about the theme. It's quite ironic, sort of risky. Techno and kombucha?
Yeah, well my whole life is pretty much a satire. I mean, I feel like everyone in some sense is a walking contradiction of themselves and that's what the theme is satirising. For example I'm a vegan but if I'm thirsty I'm going to drink out of a plastic bottle – that's probably not good for the environment. I’m making fun of myself [in the marketing] mostly so I feel like as long as you can laugh at yourself, no one is going to get too offended.
Has the idea been misinterpreted at all? Maybe by people who aren’t familiar with your brand of humour?
There has been a bunch of PC people saying you can’t use the word ‘gypsy’ in the name because it’s derogatory. My take is that words have different connotations; it depends on the context behind it. If I am promoting something that is purely fun and wholesome without any negative connotations then I don’t know why you would associate it with me trying to be offensive.
Is your festival contributing to the local economy?
Yeah, the whole workforce behind it has been local. I wouldn’t employ any Westerners anyway. Most of them don’t have proper work visas.
Has there been any push back from locals?
Nah, not at all. The Banjar, which is the local council, are super frothing on it because they love business. They’ve even said we should just open it as a venue. We were like, “yeah, maybe later.”
Has your personal understanding of Balinese culture helped in approaching the locals about setting up your festival on the island?
Yeah, definitely. We understand their culture, they understand ours. You can’t just chop down a tree if you want to chop down a tree. You have to have a ceremony; you’ve got to ask, “Is it okay to cut down this tree?” Things like that, people often forget. Also their holidays and stuff. Obviously Bali is Hindu but there are a lot of Muslims from Java living here so there are so many holidays. We had a whole month of not working two weeks ago for Eid al-Fitr, which is the end of Ramadan. Everyone gets four weeks off.
What has been the biggest hurdle in trying to set this festival up?
It’s basically just me and my buddy running the whole operation. I pretty much am the marketing budget and that’s a lot of pressure. You realise like how much money is put into marketing from other companies when you try to do it all yourself. It’s also hard to sell something that doesn’t exist yet. Like, the skeleton of the festival is ready but we can’t put any decorations up yet because they’ll just get ruined. So I’m trying to sell something that doesn’t actually exist yet.
Long term plans for Gypsy Lands?
I basically want to turn it into an event company. So every party is going to be ‘Gypsy Lands Presents’. I want the name to be super recognisable. I also want to do a Halloween party this year and call it ‘Super Spooky Party’ and then I want to do a new years one as well.
On the same piece of land in Seminyak?
Either the same piece of land or for the Halloween thing I was thinking of doing it in my old kindergarten because that’s abandoned at the moment. It would be like full circle for me. Like, “Started here. Oh s***, I’m back at 24!”
Gypsy Lands makes it debut on July 21st in Seminyak, Bali. If you happen to be around, tickets are the equivalent of $30 AUD and can be purchased here or with IDR at Crate Café Bali. Check out the Gypsy Lands Instagram for all its kooky and sarcastic marketing.
Originally published in The Industry Observer