In Conversation with W Hotels’ Music Curators

By Christabelle Palar

For those who visit Bali on the regular, W Retreats and Spa Bali in Seminyak is high on the list of go-to destinations when it comes to beach-side musical affairs that run from sunset to late at night. Silent discos and gigs featuring globally-acclaimed DJs are just a handful of programs that feature in its annual schedule, and the brand is already taking on the next step to expand its role in Southeast Asia’s music scene with the recent launch of its first-ever music studio, aptly named the Sound Suite, in Bali. We talk to Hasnor Sidik, W Hotels’ music director for Asia-Pacific, and Damian Saint, W Bali’s music curator, about Bali’s music scene and what the future holds for the new space.

Now that the studio is up and running, what’s the next move?

Hasnor Sidik: This space is not just for Bali, it’s for those in Singapore and everyone passing through here [Southeast Asia]. I would love to see a lot of artists coming by and use the studio, it’s actually very open. I want to see what comes out in terms of content.

The W brand is often associated most with electronic music. Are there plans to push beyond this genre?

Damian Saint: We are trying to push beyond that. Keep in mind that it’s difficult to tour them as they have to be in the area. Like if it’s a six-piece band it might be a little tricky. We have a lot of DJs because more DJs pass through than live acts, but if it works and if it’s doable, then I’ll snap it up straight away. We have a great environment for it.

We’ve had a singer up here, he’s a singer producer DJ, he’s very talented guy called Ben Westbeech, he went up there and people just carried on with their drinks, but then he started singing and everyone went “oh my good.” So I do like live music, but it has to be good.

What’s it like with several venues around the area also focusing on music? Is there a huge competition?

HS: No, not really. Damian is here, he’s doing a lot more electronic stuff which is cool. Potato Head does world music and a bit of everything.

DS: We’re more frequent—we’re week in week out—whereas Potato Head, when they do it, they do great events like Sunny Side Up and the likes. Their events are more on a grand scale, so no competition at all. There are several venues across the strip and they all have different flavors. I think it’s healthy and good all-around for the scene. If we were competing and out-beating each other for artists, then there wouldn’t be a scene. But with so many venues doing so many events, it raises the profile of the whole island worldwide. All those people go away and talk to their friends. It benefits all of us.

What do you think makes W Bali standout in the region?

HS: I would pick Bali as the best one musically. It was my decision that we do the studio here, because I had to pick a location. Damian has been working with me for the past year and of course you can see from the programming that he’s done that it’s very consistent here. We also get a lot of traveling DJs, be it in Singapore or in Australia, they would always want to come down to Bali. So my rationale was it’s got to be Bali for a start because we already have that flow and Damian is here and he’s good at it. This is his thing so it only makes sense to have it here first. To me it’s like a no-brainer.

You have quite a comprehensive set of equipment here. Will it be the same in all the other upcoming Sound Suite studios?

DS: Not exactly, but similar. We’ve discussed it after everyone came down here and we think it will be roughly like this, but hopefully more. There are still a few pieces I would still like to get for this place that we can hopefully have in the others. I think the other ones will have their own different character based on the scene or whichever country it’s in.

For more information, visit W Retreat and Spa Bali.

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