Insatiable the invincible how to beat levels

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Thomas Haferlach actually only wanted to do a trip to South America. The 31-year-old has now been living in São Paulo for six years and is celebrating with his party collective “Voodoohop” in the style of a Neo-Tropicália movement. The voodoo magician from Alemanha transforms fallow areas in the booming financial metropolis into neon-colored playgrounds for big city children: shrill, carnival-like and loud. A report from the Norient book Out of the absurdity of life (can be ordered here).

Getting into conversation with Thomas Haferlach is not difficult. To claim it for yourself for a long time, on the other hand, is. He's at the DJ booth and the “Pope of Voodoohop”, as he calls himself on his Facebook profile, doesn't seem like someone who wants to claim this title for himself. Tall, slim, eyes, skin and hair, with a benevolent smile on his face. So hairless and unshaven, in a simple shirt, checked trousers and beer in hand, he looks more like someone who happened to end up here. Here, in the Casa das Caldeiras, a former warehouse for steam boilers and today a playground for the city's artists. You are conspicuously and conspicuously well dressed; it is teeming with photographers. You would not have guessed that Thomas' celebrations are organized for - and are part of - the hottest party people in São Paulo.

Thomas won't have slept much. On Friday there was a party organized by his collective, on Saturday he played records as DJ Thomash at the Sonar Festival and today is Sunday and the Voodoohop is in full swing. He leads me to the bar, hands out a beer and breaks off my sentence when I say that he is the boss of the whole thing here. "No," he shakes his head, "I'm not the boss, we're a collective." In general, he has this I-am-there-somehow-slipped-in attitude, gives away his laurels generously and applauds his troops.

What began as a trip to South America like the one many began, culminated in the establishment of Voodoohop. He was 25 years old then. "The first city was São Paulo and somehow I got stuck there." He has since traveled all over the country, initially as a tourist and then as a DJ. But this Moloch, this confusing city in southeastern Brazil, which seems to consist only of skyscrapers and regularly sinks into traffic chaos, has drawn him back again and again. For six years now. While Thomas is talking, colleagues keep coming by and whispering something in his ear, party guests recognize him and friends introduce their friends. Thomas smiles, shakes hands, pats on the shoulder, answers my questions and tries to please everyone.

It was unplanned and started on a small scale, in a bar on Rua Augusta, the city's most famous bar mile. Where there had been a brothel before, Thomas held parties, put on records himself and invited friends. "Nothing serious," he says. The friends invited their friends, the number of guests grew and it soon became apparent that more space was needed for a continuation. The man who studied artificial intelligence and computer science in Scotland and now had to keep his head above water with odd jobs has become a serious party organizer. When asked whether he missed Germany, he replied: "When I am there, I love it", but his sense of home is not very strong. Thomas has built up an existence in Brazil, speaks the language and is surrounded by locals who support him resolutely. He grins when he talks about his mother, who lives in his hometown of Cologne and could hardly believe what her son was up to in Brazil: "And now you're standing there organizing parties with carnival people." Voodoo-hop may be the product of a guy whose job he got bored of. But you can't deny the magic.

Thomas uses the word "organic" to describe the slow but steady development of Voodoohop. Parties with DJs turned into "visual stories" and he emphasizes: "Doing the whole thing with music would not have been worth it." Not in a city that offers countless opportunities to have fun. If you want to stand out, you have to be inventive, because in "New York of South America", as São Paulo is often called, the competition and the will to be creative are particularly great.

Drag queen chic for city kids

Voodoohop celebrations are then also a stimulation of all five senses, if possible, at the same time: While two colorfully painted figures throw confetti in a huge, transparent tent for the purpose of an art performance, the guests in the room next door dance to hypnotic music. When going to the toilet, you can pause for a photo exhibition while a few meters away a drummer, bassist and synthesizer melt into a band. A man in a bathing suit blows glitter dust from his hand and a lady in a bird of paradise costume uses her bare fingers to paint the overheated faces of the dancers with neon paint that glows in the glow of the disco ball. Everything is allowed and the shrillier the more welcome. Here, what was previously only accepted underground is catapulted upwards. Voodoohop opens barriers and is a playground for the big city kids who have got bored. Tropical ecstatic nights in drag queen chic; traditional samba is married to experimental electronics.

Constantly changing, new creativities sprout from the center of Voodoohop. Tolerance and hedonistic joie de vivre allow everything that is fun and astonishing. Every now and then a lady with a loudspeaker shows up and plays stoic, cheesy, cheesy or just bad Brazilian songs and within a very short time gathers a bunch of people who are singing along loudly. This creates a new splash of color at the actual party.

The Voodoohop collective: These are video artists, dancers, performers, DJs and laptop musicians who are insatiable and take partying with them into everyday life. So there is still a bit of neon color on the face and the clothes look so authentic, as if the party birds stumbled out of the club early in the morning and haven't had time to shower. The extravagant costumes and colorful wigs have long ceased to be a disguise, but part of a reality they have created themselves.

Neo-Tropicália in the ruins

However, this play with colors, shapes and expressionism is not new. Voodoohop brings to life what was already fun in the late 1960s. At that time, the generation of 68 was behind it: Brazil celebrated its own version of hippy with the Tropicália movement and the people basked in the glow of a new freedom that was expressed through theater, poetry and music. Heroes like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa created a new world in the midst of the military dictatorship, shaping an entire generation and leaving behind an immense artistic work. The military dictatorship has been history since 1985, but people are still starving and begging, neglect and environmental pollution are a sad matter of course.

Voodoohop as a Neo-Tropicália movement? To suspect a revolutionary purpose behind it would be presumptuous. But voodoo hop parties are certainly embedded in the current affairs of São Paulo. They take place in the center, where a particularly large number of people beg and live on the street, collect rubbish and ask for the empty cans of the party guests. In unused buildings, as there are many in this city, in former strip clubs, building ruins and cemeteries, the creative minds of Voodoohop nestle up and transform them into art studios and dance floors - into magical places. Always a little provisional and tattered, it looks as if everything is under renovation. Nik, a friend of Thomas, calls the process “recycling”. The businessman from Germany has also built a new home in São Paulo. "With little money you can get the most out of it and the entrance to the parties is affordable, not like in many in and high-class shops, of which there are already enough in the city," says Nik.

Thomas and his voodoo-hop collective do not use the city's potential alone. Empty hotels and former residences are becoming a new home, especially for street residents. They clean, renovate and breathe new life into buildings believed to be dead. Something that the authorities are reluctant to see and that is causing political explosives: At the beginning of February 2012, the residents of an “Ocupação” - as the squatting in Brazil are called - were chased onto the street by the police on Avenida São João. On the same day, a Voodoohop party was planned - and took place in the building across the street. Especially in the most famous voodoo-hop temple - the tracker tower - the view from the terrace grants a clear view of a dreariness that is so very common: people, wrapped in blankets, sleep on the street. “I've lived in São Paulo for 25 years, but I've never seen this city like this before,” a friend assures me. The Paulistanas and Paulistanos, confronted with the reality of their up-and-coming city, which does not yet know how to deal with its opposites.

Voodoohop is already so established that even the authorities grant exclusive permission and, if necessary, raise police protection. Like at this year's Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro: The voodoo-hop troop is set up on the highest point of the Vidigal favela and the mototaxis are in constant use, speeding up the hill, freshly showered and hot-haired party-hungry people in the back seat. Not harmless. But who wants to miss out on being so close to the phenomenal view of Ipanema Beach, the starry sky of Rio and dancing into the day at sunrise. In a favela.

From computer scientist to voodoo magician

Thomas jumps restlessly from one leg to the other, he is expected. When DJane Marina walks by with a black feather headdress and a painted face, I ask him whether this reference to the Indians, the Brazilian natives, has never been criticized. He denies: “It was always received positively. Just that we are interested in Brazilian culture and not copy America and Europe. "

What works in São Paulo will take place in Europe this summer, near Thomas ’roots: in Berlin, Kassel, Paris and Corsica he is celebrating with his voodoo-hop collective.

Why the name «Voodoohop»? “I don't know,” says Thomas, “Voodoo, I think, is a very suitable name because it is possible to fall into a trance at our parties. And «hop», yes, that just sounds good. " Then he has to go, say goodbye and politely apologize. A party pope also works on Sundays.

The Photographers:

Ariel Martini
Bia Ferrer
Caroline Barrueco