How Magic Room is spreading a love of Hong Kong and music to the world

Magic Room is an incorporation of the people – the best of Europe and the best of Asia.

How Magic Room is spreading a love of Hong Kong and music to the world
Source: Magic Room

Remy Kerstens (Mo-Shi), stationed in his DJ booth, was playing at a club in the South of France. Over the loud beats and strong vibrations, he’d heard, “Hi, nice to meet you. I really like what you guys do. … I really like what you guys do in Asia, and I would be very happy if there was any opportunity to work together.” That voice belonged to none other than a fellow DJ, Leo Arbez. 

“When someone has such a strong idea about what he wants to do, I think you should always support it,” says Remy, now sitting alongside Leo for an interview with TMS. “And I was right because that means we’re here today,” he continues. The two French visionaries have since then hosted under-the-radar music and art events across the city with the creation of Magic Room.

In the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, amid the neon glow and urban hustle, if you find a red “Magic Room” neon sign, you’ll soon feel the most vibrant electronic heartbeats of the city. But Magic Room has transformed from more than just a spot for electronic music to a cultural oasis since its inception in 2020. Driven by their shared love for music and the city, Remy and Leo have fostered a unique and resonant community bonded by an undeniable passion for creativity and values. 

TMS sat down with the pair to learn more about their deep connection with each other – both business cooperation and personal ties – and further explore the strong and positive pulse of Magic Room in Hong Kong’s cultural scene.

A love of music

Source: Magic Room

Every artist has an origin. Where did their passions begin? Both Remy and Leo’s taste for music was fueled from a young age. In a bit of word-play, Remy’s mother took inspiration from the music scale “do-re-mi,” giving him his name and a start to an early music career at the age of 5. 

As for Leo? “Well, what drew me to music is a very good question,” he says with a smile, wearing a white tee with a ripped denim jacket. His passion for music stemmed from his parent’s love for dance. Pulled along to watch dance competitions at a young age, “‘til late I was listening to music, and that was what makes me close to that. Close to … I would say the vibrations that music makes me feel,” explains Leo. 

“At the end of the day, music is just a vibration of something that is going through the air,” he says. These vibrations surround us, and there is indeed a lot to be heard. “You just need to have the right microphone to catch it.” 

Getting behind the DJ booth with the launch of his career, Leo “decided to give back all that vibration to people by starting to play music and make music.”

To quote, music is the language of the heart. Leo thinks so, too. “It has to be linked with the heart. If it doesn’t come from the heart, that means it’s missing something,” he says. Not only does it entertain, but it heals. After a period of burnout, it was music and Hong Kong that acted as a salve for him. “What was it that got me back on my feet?” Leo says. “It was getting back to the roots of what I like.” Look for the cure, Leo says. While there may not be a “special” cure to solve all your problems, he advises you to “find what truly means something to you.” 

“At the end of the day, a product and what you are creating is just an extension of what you are,” Leo says. “So, everything that we do is an extension of who we are.” 

Values are everything

Source: Magic Room

Leo first came to Hong Kong in 2013 and played as a DJ in Dragon-i for two years while on and off between Asia and Europe. “I really like to be inspired by this multicultural area and that thing that can combine, something from the East and the West,“ he says, ”and the city has a lot of history and legacy that you can [get] inspired as well.” 

“The reason you came back to Hong Kong is me,” Remy says laughing.

Values have always driven the two DJs – their work, their relationship and, of course, Magic Room. Leo sees Hong Kong as a city that fits his values – a multicultural area with a mix of East and West. “We are implementing those values in everything we do, in all the projects we do … fitting the values of the city and ourselves,” he says. 

Relationships are a core of Remy and Leo’s principles, whether it be for friendship or business. With no trust, with no respect, there is no future, Remy believes. “Very, very easily when I met Leo, I realized that we have the same way of living life,” he says. 

Hong Kong became an outlet to bring their own culture and values to a new audience. Remy envisions Hong Kong, as a multicultural landscape, as having a European father and an Asian mother. “The roots come from the mother. But then the father gives a little bit of the spiciness,” he explains. “Every day in the streets or whatever, I really felt that I had this kind of life that I had with my family,” he says. Both Remy and Leo have found a home within Hong Kong’s East and West cultures. “We are definitely French, but we definitely have a powerful heart here,” says Remy. 

Their shared values are manifested in their love for the city. “What makes the city unique is the combination between Europe, the emphasis of overseas and Asia,” Leo says, “which makes a combination of crazy things you can find in the legacy, in the history, in the everyday life of the system.” 

“I think it's the best of both worlds, also – the best of what we have in Europe and the best of what Asia has to offer,” Remy adds.

The journey of Magic Room

Source: Magic Room

Does Hong Kong’s music culture get lost in the vastness of Asia? From Remy’s observation, yes. But what makes Hong Kong unique? That is exactly what the two DJs sat down to discuss before launching their passion project. “Naturally, we said ‘OK, if we want to introduce Hong Kong, if we want to do music, if we want to host people because this is the way we do things, what can we do?’” recalls Remy. The answer? “We do what we do best.” Hosting and music. From starting with small events to the promotion of house music, it only blew up from there. 

Pushing local markets and spreading the blood-pumping beats of music, the duo wanted to pull Hong Kong out of the shadows. “You know, when you’re not happy about something, what do you do? You build it yourself,” says Remy, with a casual shrug and a smile.

The name “Magic Room” was inspired by the music Leo and Remy vibe with together. “We were sitting on the sofa playing video games at the time … then we were listening to that track called “The Magic Room” from Dino Lenny and remixed by Seth Troxler,” Leo says. The lyrics were really meaningful. It was really like a correct and straight way of describing what we wanted to share. “ 

Magic Room is an incorporation of the people – the best of Europe and the best of Asia. Leo and Remy’s space is as much yours as it is theirs. From the moment you step inside to the moment you leave, “Magic Room is a journey,” says Remy. 

“From the neon sign on top of the dance floor, from the red colors that are representing Asia, from the token and the coin you have when you enter, each value is represented.” It all comes back to this. “You can feel that you can touch the values inside the event,” says Leo. “And also feel the way we feel it,” adds Remy.

“We just wanted to support the local markets, introduce this part of the world, and share music with people, ” Remy says, “and in this matter, we created the whole ecosystem that we have today.”  

Rather hypnotic, the Magic Room experience beckons passersby – even online. With a witty fold of the arms and a smirk, Leo breaks down the concept behind their website. “I said ‘Hey, why don’t we do a landing page where the user doesn’t know how to use it, but it creates something?’” Click on the website, and you’re met with a black screen and the words “Magic Room” smack dead in the center. Enter, and you’re at a street view. Is it raining in Hong Kong? It’s raining on the website. Clickable neon lights take you where you need to go. “I think the whole neon sign culture is a big part of the DNA of the city, it's something we are very sensitive to,” Remy says. “So each one of these neon actually represents a part of the city.” 

What do you press first? It’s up to you. “Like when you get in a room. You have to discover it,” says Remy.

With a heavy emphasis on you, the journey starts from the moment you leave your home, the moment you get in that taxi, to the moment you arrive at the venue. “You drown in this world, and for the time being, you can be with us, listening to music. Forget about everything happening in a normal life, trying to escape a little bit if you need to escape,” says Remy. 

“Everything remains connected for the people, to stay in this small universe, to escape, like a kid escaping [in] a video game.” 

A bond over passion – connecting with local artists

Much like the beginnings of their bond, Leo and Remy have supported and pushed local artists through a shared sense of passion. “You show people what you are capable of. Then they have the confidence to come to us and say, ‘Hey guys, I really love what you guys do. Is there any way I can be part of it?’” explains Remy.

Not all underground artists will get the recognition they deserve. Yes, there are talented people out there, but the question of how they grow remains – how they make an entrance how they maintain their status. “A lot of people are very talented but have no clue on how to introduce, share or grow in this.” Growth doesn’t only mean reeling in the money. Growth means being heard. “Having a lot of people that can see, or feel or listen to your creativity,” says Remy. 

“It’s creating an ecosystem,” says Leo. From club management to Magic Room to record labels and booking agencies, Leo and Remy have provided the stepping stone that boosts local artists to new levels. That process is just like making a burger, Remy says. “You need the salad, the sliced cheese, everything, and the best way to control the quality of the burger is to own the farm.” 

But to build that farm, you need the flock. Rule number starts with an open door. “If you feel connected to what we do, if you feel at home in this party, you are more than welcome to join,” says Remy. Besides an open door, the two have scoured the markets and scouted the plains of Hong Kong’s entertainment industry. Not everyone might have the confidence to come up and say, “I want this.” But it doesn’t mean they can’t have it. Some budding artists need that hand that’ll pull them to the spotlight. 

Much like artists such as Milam, a local talent from Hong Kong. From one simple email to listening to Milan’s music to having some tea, it was then all about finding the record label. Soon Milam’s music spread not only in Hong Kong but across borders past Asia to Europe. 

But it isn’t always shop talk. It isn’t just business but the relationship between the artist and Magic Room. “That kind of relationship. That kind of trust, support. We learn from each other,” says Remy. With Magic Room comes unity. “Everybody creating and making things on the side is of course great. But it’s only if we all connect, if we all work together, hand to hand. If music is connected to painting, connecting to drawing, connecting to every different art culture, this is when everything gets to a different level.”

Magic Room is a lifestyle. No bad vibes, Leo insists. If you’re touched by it, you fit in it. “At the end of the day you give something … if people are touched, then they come back. People are coming for you, but they’re coming for themselves as well.” Locations, people, the vibes will all tune the city's taste for arts and culture, and when you look past the high-rise financial buildings that scatter the city, Hong Kong has a lot more to offer than you see at the surface.

“I [have been] traveling the world for the last 15 years as a DJ, meeting people, talking about Hong Kong,” Remy says. “I don't think that people understand how Hong Kong has a lot to offer; people don't really understand the way we live here.” 

“We are pushing and pushing every day, as Remy said, to keep having dreams, to keep having ideas to do some crazy things in the city because this is a nice playground,” Leo says with a chuckle.