Perfectly mixed: Snug encapsulates the extravagance and debauchery of Hanoi’s queer clubbing community

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Founded on a belief that Hanoi’s LGBTQIA+ clubbing scene is up there with the world’s best, Snug’s combination of local talent and international favourites has made it a shining star of Vietnam’s underground dance scene

  • Words: Megan Townsend | Photos: Gio Dionisio
  • 27 April 2023

Functions is our interview series profiling parties from across the world. Next up is Hanoi’s Snug.

Take a brief look at Snug’s Instagram page following any of its extravagant events and its clear why this has become one of Veitnam’s most talked about LGBTQIA+ parties. Snapshots of hazy dancefloor embraces, fishnets, smiling friends, lingerie-clad drag queens, subtly-not-subtle poppers consumption and G&T’s thrusted into the air will typically be gracing the ‘grid — a vision of comfortable hedonism, equal parts casual and extravagant.

This mixture is the central ethos of Snug, the sometimes-monthly queer party first established in 2016 by French DJ and Savage co-founder Ouissam Mokretar — who, after noticing a lack of accessible events of its kind in Hanoi, decided to create a party to launch in the newly-established underground venue, Savage, in the city’s suburb Tay Ho. As Savage quickly gained a reputation for its eclectic house and techno offering, Snug became its flagship event, booking a mixture of up-and-coming local talent and international stars — bringing the likes of Roi Perez, Chrissy and Fantastic Man to the Vietnamese capital Snug even partnered with Berlin’s Herrensauna in 2019, showcasing some hard-as-nails techno from residents Cem and MCMLXXXV. Snug’s extended New Year and Birthday parties are the ones to keep your eye on, boasting extended line-ups and after-hours fun.

Ouissam moved to Hanoi after living in Hong Kong from 2010 to 2016, where he established record label and artist agency Cliche Records — using it as a vehicle to help grow the city’s underground dance music scene. Turning his focus to Hanoi, Savage and Snug were a “watershed moment” for Ouissam and the burgeoning scene in Vietnam. “Having a party like Snug in Hanoi is always something refreshing,” he says, “It’s innovative and breaking new ground for the city.” Alongside Snug and Savage, Ouissam runs Equation Festival that takes place once a year at the beautiful Mỏ Luông Cave in Mai Chau — a 500-metre deep cave system located at the heart of the Pu Kha mountain. This year’s edition featured a 60 minute takeover from Snug, complete with drag queens from Hanoi’s Peach party.

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We caught up with Snug and Savage Hanoi co-founder Oussim Mokretar to talk establishing an LGBTQIA+ party in Vietnam’s capital, avoiding run-ins with the authorities and how focusing on the little details can be a recipe for success.

What is Snug’s mission statement?

When we launched Snug in 2016, we were convinced that a safe space was very much needed in town. So Snug’s first mission was to create a space where crowds wouldn’t be judged for their looks or appearance. By breaking the rules and conventions, Snug could ultimately offer a monthly event where openness and cohesiveness would be the first guests on stage.

Was Snug something that was really needed in Hanoi? What separates it from other parties in the city?

Snug was definitely needed in Hanoi! From the beginning, Snug created a safe space in Hanoi where people were invited to dress up and present themselves as they wished. In addition, Snug begins its nights with a drag show in collaboration with Peach, a party crew providing LGBTQIA+ events, which greatly promoted and normalised openness and acceptance. Queer spaces are always described as strong, vibrant, and worthy of occupying their own place as safe spaces for people who identify with them, as places of social gathering, entertainment, and celebrating diversity. Therefore, there will always be a need for queer initiatives like Snug.

Can you tell us about the first Snug?

The first Snug party was definitely a great success. For the very first one, we decided to invite Skatebård from Norway and we could not imagine a better DJ than him to heat up the night… he is always funny and lovely. Of course, most of the attendees did not expect what happened on that night, the first ever Queer Party at Savage. It went on until 6:AM, which was really rare in 2016!

Can you describe Snug in five or less words?

A Perfectly Mixed Crowd.

Have you got a great anecdote from Snug that you really feel sums up the party?

I would say when Snug was celebrating its 4th birthday. For the occasion, we invited Hibiya Line from The Observatory, and he decided to show up and perform as DJ Q, his other alias which he (rarely) uses. DJ Q was dressed entirely in drag, and sang/ performed for the crowd throughout his DJ set. We’ve known him for about a decade, but on this night we were introduced to an entirely new persona, giving us a remarkable performance too.

What is the typical Snug attendee like? What do they wear/what do they drink/what do they talk about?

The style of dress is always extremely varied, you can always see everything: from topless young lads and girls wearing hoodies to people showing up only in their underwear. Our attendees usually drink the cocktails classic g&t and, the other one, known as “a tribe called Savage”. After the night, people tend to talk about Peach’s performances that they just saw and experienced.

Read this next: Recommendations: Ouissam helps us hit up Hanoi

What is the process for you to organise Snug? Do you think about bookings first? How do you usually promote it?

When it comes to programming the party, we usually prefer to book one member of the Asian queer scene and one from the European or American stage. Moreover, we have Hanoi or Saigon based DJ artists that often join us for the event and complete the lineup. Friends from the area also like to come to Savage that night as we generally have a big dinner before the party. Promoting Snug remains very simple: we work on our database and mailchimp, and are mostly focused on Instagram these days.

Are there any unique challenges to throwing an LGBTQIA+ party in Hanoi/Vietnam?

Not really. It has gone very smoothly so far. The only problem we’ve faced has maybe been design as nudity is not allowed on any possible visual promotion. Otherwise, the authorities might shut us down.

What is it about Hanoi that makes it the perfect home for Snug?

Hanoi is driven by the new generation’s thirst to be in a space like Snug that ensures safety and a blend that fits them, allows them to let loose and even make new unique friends.

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Do you have any advice for promoters who are starting out their own party? What have you learned over the years?

Surround yourself with the most creative team possible and look for other talent in town to work on promoting your project. Every little detail is essential, from your visual identity, to your party’s resident DJ, to your posters, to the decorations and even the text of your event. It’s not just about the international guests you are able to receive at your event. Being there and connected is also essential for the community you are targeting: I suggest you create a small database and send out a monthly newsletter to share information about your party, music, photos and even fun stories with your community.

Do you have a favourite set from Snug?

Kim Ann Foxman for the last Snug in February 2023! She fits perfectly with what Snug is trying to offer to its community: music but also touching people (combine sound with human beings).

Proudest moment from Snug?

Without a doubt, the fact that two of our friends met at the Snug’s first anniversary, fell in love and then gave birth to a baby last September.

Read this next: New short film documents Vietnam’s vibrant clubbing community

What’s coming up next for Snug and Savage?

Once a year we organise a huge extended night for Snug to celebrate Peach’s birthday, Snug’s drag show partner, on Saturday, May 20. For the occasion, the party starts earlier (4:PM) with an extra dancefloor, the Savage pool, and ends later on at 7:AM, in Savage’s Red Cube. In total, the party lasts 15 hours. We are also working on a beach retreat weekend next September for our first outdoor event in Vietnam. Finally, we have set and chosen the date for the 7 year anniversary on December 9. Unfortunately, we can not say more about the line-up yet, but we can assure you that it will be a memorable night!

For more information on Snug, check out their Instagram.

Megan Townsend is Mixmag’s Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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