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Trailblazers: Godwin Pereira, Kyo

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global live entertainment business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Aventus’s Annika Monari and Alan Vey, here.)

Following October’s interview with O Beach Ibiza’s Tony Truman, Trailblazers begins 2019 in conversation with another club boss: this time, Godwin Pereira, founder and CEO of south-east Asian club brand Kyō.

The Kyō brand debuted in Singapore in 2013, quickly becoming one of the city-state’s most popular clubs and pulling in international heavyweights such as François K, Osunlade and Nic Fanciulli for its house and techno nights. In December 2016, it expanded to Kuala Lumpur, opening a 6,000sqft, 770-capacity club (divided into two spaces, main room Kyō and smaller space Ren) at the city’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Since opening, Kyō KL has welcomed DJs including Seth Troxler, Dubfire, Talib Kweli, Pan Pot and Jeremy Olander, and recently agreed a partnership with London’s the Egg that saw it take over the club in October.

“Kuala Lumpur has the right elements for a club concept like Kyō to thrive,” said Pereira last year. “It has a cosmopolitan dynamism and a music scene teeming with numerous subgenres and collectives, although there is yet to be one specific venue that caters to all of these genres. Kyō KL was created to fulfil this purpose: housing a spectrum of genres, both up-and-coming and forgotten, to bring together a community of music lovers who can enjoy these in one venue.”


How did you get your start in the industry?
I started young, in the back end, as a roadie and rigging boy. My interest grew from there – to learning the business, booking DJs, doing everything. It was a natural life path to somehow end up owning a club. It drives me nuts but it’s very rewarding and I love it still.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
DJs and music, first and foremost. Clubs like Paradise Garage and Studio 54 are influences, for sure – about how humans going into clubs and relate these emotions. [DJs like] François K and all that are huge inspirations for me.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I say, when people ask, that I am in the business of selling memories. If people meet and hook up in my club, that’s a good enough job for me.

What achievements are you most proud of?
In terms of growth for such a small brand – we started in a back street in the business district. We started as a joke. And within five years we’re in a five-star hotel… I think coming from an underground club to a five-star hotel in a basement is a great achievement and shows how strong our brand is.

“We started as a joke. And within five years we’re in a five-star hotel”

How has the business changed since you started out?
I think when we started it was more underground. Our first three months was really an experimental lab. We were seeing what people were and were not responding to.

With this new club we have two rooms, so we have more intimate stuff upstairs and then went more mainstream in the main room. We can do the stuff we want to in the week, but more edgy in the small room at the weekend.

What could the industry do more of?
I think it’s just making artists more accessible. The biggest struggle for mid-sized clubs like us is that it’s hard to afford the big guys. That’s the hardest bit.

Some guys realise that – Seth Troxler and those guys were looking for an intimate vibe instead of the 60,000-people festivals, so we hope artists can see what we are trying to do for them: to offer more intimate shows.

What advice would you give to someone making their start in the industry?
Keep your head clear and have a great legal advisor. Just be hungry for information. That’s what keeps driving things forward.

Go and immerse yourself in something and experience it.


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Further Asian expansion for Sony’s Zepp venues

Zepp Hall Network, a division of Sony Music Entertainment Japan, has revealed plans for two more mid-sized venues outside Japan.

Joining Zepp Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia – announced in February as the company’s first non-Japanese venue – are Zepp@BIGBOX Singapore, a 2,333-capacity venue jointly operated with Singapore’s Big Box Investment, and Zepp New Taipei, a 2,200-cap. space across four floors in a new development in the Taipei suburb of Hsinchuang Futuhsin.

Zepp@BIGBOX will open first, on 4 June with a show by J-rock band Radwimps, with Zepp New Taipei following in April 2020 and Zepp Kuala Lumpur at the tail end of the same year.

“Zepp’s expansion in Asia will … create touring opportunities for Japanese and international artists”

Funding for the new venues – all of which will feature “stage machinery, lighting and sound systems with specifications standardised for all Zepp venues across the globe”, giving “an advantage to tour promoters and touring artists alike” – is covered partially by the Japanese government’s Cool Japan fund.

The latest round of expansion, says Zepp, “will blaze a trail for the Japanese music industry while creating touring opportunities for Japanese and international artists”. “Our hope is to bring people around the world together and provide the grounds for cultural exchange by building the infrastructure,” it adds in a statement.

Zepp Hall Network manages six venues in Japan – Zepp Sapporo, Zepp Tokyo and Zepp DiverCity in Tokyo, Zepp Nagoya, Zepp Namba in Osaka and the newly opened Zepp Osaka Bayside, with new venues opened in Fukuoka in 2018 and Yokohama in 2020.


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Zepp to operate new $22m Kuala Lumpur venue

Japanese venue group Zepp Hall Network has is to manage a new 2,500-cap. music venue in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur – its first outside Japan.

Zepp Kuala Lumpur – set to open in 2020 – is being built by BBCC Development, the developer of Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Bintang shopping and entertainment district, at a cost of RM100 million (US$22.42m). Zepp Hall Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment Japan, has been awarded a 20-year lease on the venue.

Zepp operates five venues in Japan, and also promotes tours and festivals under the Zepp Live brand.

BBCC CEO Datuk Richard Ong Kek Seng says the new development – on the site of the former Pudu prison – will also include a multi-screen cinema, shopping centre and food hall.

According to Livescape Group live events director Rahul Kukreja, writing in IQ 68, Malaysia remains an untapped market for touring in south-east Asia, with a local audience hungry for shows by international artists but a weak currency and hostile governments hampering progress.


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“No one to blame” for AR Rahman wash-out

A Malaysian promoter has denied any responsibility for a disastrous AR Rahman concert which started three hours late with no explanation and was dogged by numerous technical and crowd-control problems.

Saturday’s show at the 25,000-capacity Independence Stadium in Kuala Lumpur – the first major undertaking for Black Horse Media, which was founded in January – was affected by a torrential downpour that flooded the stage and caused the start of the event to be delayed from 8pm to 11pm, by which time many attendees had already left.

“We organised the concert to the best of our abilities,” Black Horse chairman R. Chandra told the Malay Mail. “There’s no one to blame for what happened. It was rain, it was nature.”

Chandra said the delay was caused by Rahman’s management refusing to begin the performance in the wet conditions. “The concert eventually took place because our side and AR Rahman’s side compromised our own interests for the sake of the audience, who had been waiting for hours,” he said.

“There’s no one to blame for what happened. It was rain, it was nature”

He added that the PA system had malfunctioned due to the rain, leaving Black Horse unable to inform the crowds of the reason for the delay.

Black Horse director David Raja said Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer and musician Rahman (pictured) was happy with the way the show turned out, in spite of the problems. “He did publicly thank the organisers at the end of the show, and he continued communications with us until he left Malaysia,” he said.

Chandra added that the promoter is planning another Rahman concert in future – this time indoors. “We want to make up for the disappointment of those who waited and give them a concert that goes according to plan this time,” he said.