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KU Ibiza. The history and the stories

12. April 2013 | 09:43

We review the history of KU with Faruk Gandji, creator of the most memorable parties of the discotheque’s golden era.

On September 15, a lucky few of us experienced a glimpse of the legendary parties of KU at the “Remember” party that was organised by the genius Faruk Gandji, a magician and illusionist who managed to transport us back to those amazing years.

Faruk is part of the history of pleasure-seeking Ibiza and the creator of outrageous parties that the god Bes would have died to go to and that turned KU into a legend. His treasure trove of memories is full of photos (carefully kept and labelled), there are 100s, and now he has chosen to share this legacy via his Facebook page “KU Ibiza Best Years”.

What better moment to rescue the discotheque’s golden era from oblivion and review, by means of Faruk’s reminiscences, a little bit of the history of Ibiza?

In the 60s and beginning of the 70s Spain was a country oppressed by dictatorship and people came to Ibiza to experience freedom. Artists, epicureans and free spirits made the island their utopian retreat where the only code was live and let live.

Over the course of the 70s the first night clubs appeared where music prohibited by the censors began to be heard. It was then that nightlife entrepreneurs - such as the visionaries Javier Iturrioz, Jose Luis Anabitarte “Gorri” and Jose Antonio Santamaría with their legendary KU - decided to convert old farmhouses into discotheques. It was at the end of that decade and in the early years of the 80s when the legend was founded thanks to the know-how of the owners and the masters of ceremony who were always looking for originality and diversity when it came to organising fiestas.
Grace Jones live in KU
Grace Jones live in KU
The rise of KU coincided with the post-Franco era. The socialist government of 1982 wanted to rid Spanish society - stuck as it was in the past and deprived of outside influences - of its cobwebs with a policy of permissiveness and total freedom, promoting the use of drugs and free love.

The priority, of course, was to fill the disco up and make money but what took it to international fame was the goal, shared by the entire team, of achieving a good vibe in general and making sure that the nights had that spark that makes magic emerge; they were experts in turning parties into unforgettable occasions.

The team in charge of creating the magic was Faruk and Brasilio Oliviera. They came up with unique parties that always found their inspiration in the island “with the aim of reminding everyone that they were in Ibiza and that they enjoyed almost total freedom… The parties were organised with the help of the entire KU team…they were in the open air with the moon and the stars as the roof above and the sun rising at dawn after a night of ecstasy…Something out of the ordinary always happened thanks to the freaks and extravagant creatures of the night who took an active part” Faruk recalls. “We tried to provide a good time for everyone in Ibiza: from the children with their special fiesta on Sunday evenings to the elderly for whom we organised charity dinners. The hippies had their party, the gays had their fiesta, and even fans of the bull races at San Fermines near Pamplona had their own San Fermín in KU where they let loose a steer and everything”.
Sigue Sigue Spoutnik live in KU
Sigue Sigue Spoutnik live in KU
“There were three kinds of events: the concerts, the contests and the parties. The concerts were programmed in advance, each contest was organised once a year although we were constantly coming up with new ideas to make them different. The parties tended to be spontaneous depending on the weather and the mood people were in. We thought them up and carried most of them out in the space of 48 hours; we were at the mercy of timing and were continually pushing the bounds of what was possible… Pino (Sagliocco) was the promoter of the concerts. He started out bringing underground groups and then big stars. He made a huge contribution which culminated with Freddy Mercury and Montserrat Caballé recording the promotional video of the 1992 Olympic Games in KU”.

“One of the most important factors was the music that we played. Our DJs were continually on the search for unusual records; it was what completed our characteristic musical style. DJs from all over the world wanted to play at KU and many of them had the chance to try out our booth and interact with the energy of our dance floor but the DJs who left their mark on the history of KU were, without a doubt, Patrick Michaut, the first DJ in 1978, DJ Gerardo, DJ Chicco, DJ Massimo, DJ Juan Carlos and DJ Cesar. They were the founding fathers of what would later come to be known as the Balearic Beat. It was a mixture of rock & roll, funk, reggae and 80s new wave” Faruk explains.

Divine live in KU
Divine live in KU
In the 1980s anyone who came to Ibiza had to come to KU; it was an obligatory visit. “The Ibicencos and people from Ibiza (people with businesses or houses on the island and long time summer residents) were the main nucleus and they were joined by personalities from the international aristocracy, from cinema, from the music scene, from fashion, politicians, businessmen and women and artists” Faruk tells us. Of the many well-known faces that came there were stalwarts such as Julio Iglesias, Roman Polanski, Freddy Mercury, Jean Paul-Gaultier, Niki Lauda, Lord Cowdray, Baron von Thum Taxis, Steve Strange, Nina Hagen and many others. Other famous people also did not want to miss out on the KU phenomenon: Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller), Valentino, Grace Jones, Brigitte Nielsen, Mick Jagger or Ronnie Wood,

KU grew so fast that Faruk found it necessary to create the VIP bar “a place reserved for celebrities and people from Ibiza… In spite of the criticism it was there that the magic emerged and the parties’ action began… Unfortunately, nowadays every club has a VIP, but the VIP concept (Very Important Person) has turned into VRP (Very Rich Person) and people from Ibiza cannot even get in unless they pay a ridiculously high price”.
The poster of the Gorryland party (13th of Sept. 1984)
The poster of the Gorryland party (13th of Sept. 1984)
The parties became famous from one side of the planet to the other and “discos around the world attempted to reproduce what went on here…but it couldn’t be repeated”. And that was precisely the moment when “Ibiza” themed parties began to spring up all over the world because everyone wanted to experience something unique. And what attracted the blood suckers who came in the 1990s to get their fill. But let’s stay with the good things: the anecdotes and stories of KU in the 80s as told by Faruk who experienced them in flesh and blood. The way of doing things was totally different “the opening and closing parties were free for everyone...Some artists or groups who performed at KU did so in exchange for spending their holidays in Ibiza and they didn’t gain any prestige, many of them felt so at home that they didn’t want to leave. We sent our DJs to Germany, Belgium or England to look for songs that were unpublished or very difficult to find” Faruk recounts.

At that time you didn’t have to ask for permits “you did your party and, if anyone complained about the noise, you got a fine that you paid or you managed to get them to take it back… Other times they fined us when we didn’t adhere to the closing times but, by popular request, the fiestas always went on until dawn so that, in the end, it was worth paying the fine…” Faruk confesses. Rumour also has it that KU enjoyed a special relationship with the local and national governments owing to the fact that it represented such a magnet for attracting high-end foreign tourists.

Ferocious competition among the discos did not exist “When one of the three discotheques organised a party it did so in a way that did not interfere with the others so everyone could go to all of them” Faruk adds nostalgically. Despite that there was always rivalry, basically between two local discos and sabotage was a normal occurrence: for example, from time to time you’d find someone had cut KU’s generator cable or they would slash the tyres on Faruk’s car or on the car of some other member of the discotheque.

Imagination was the order of the day, not just when it came to organising the parties but also because you had to think something up when the authorities decided to shut you down because of complaints about the noise or because the competition had reported you. Like the time that the owners of KU found out that the Guardia Civil had been ordered to confiscate the sound system and, without wasting a minute of time, they took the old system out of storage and put the entire team to work to set it up so that, when the Guardia Civil arrived, they carried away the old sound system and that same night KU opened its doors with its sound system intact.
DJ Gerardo
DJ Gerardo
Faruk tells us how they used to find proactive solutions “The noise only affected those living in the San Rafael residential estate so, in the end, KU ended up renting out their houses during the summer to compensate them financially and enable them to stay elsewhere on the island”. Even so they were reported to the police: something they suspected came from the envious owner of the disco in Ibiza.

“We had a pool that turned out to be an invitation to people to take their clothes off and dive into it, we organised firework castles and even had hot air balloons that flew over the club” (and it’s funny that Faruk mentions it as my very own mother was one of the pilots of those balloons).

“There were legendary performances such as those by James Brown, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Divine, Nina Hagen, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and Jose Feliciano, among many others. However, without a doubt the one that got most acclaim was that of Talk Talk, it was a sell-out…people were climbing the walls to get in and the security guards had to spend the whole night on the walls to make sure people didn’t hurt themselves climbing up or landing”.

“There is one image that still comes to my mind and brings a smile to my face: The Spanish Minister of Justice with his face as red as a tomato running along the interior corridors of KU... I was in the changing room with the girls who were in the t-shirt contest, all of them naked, when all of a sudden someone knocked on the door and there was Gorri with Enrique Mújica (the Minister), I said hello and invited them to come in but when the Minister found himself surrounded by 25 nude girls, all of them looking at him, his gaze fell to the floor and he exclaimed “no, no, no, no, I can’t!” before he ran off”.

“KU had that ability to organise parties beyond your wildest imagination and it’s no surprise that visitors were astonished. The message spread like wildfire from one country to another and more and more people came to Ibiza eager to live out a surreal, unfettered experience on a magical island”.

Thank you Faruk for such a pleasant evening spent listening to these stories and thanks for having brought a world of fantasy and illusion to the magical island of Ibiza.

Nowadays Ibiza is a reference point worldwide for electronic music and big discotheques but the magic of the island that is so often mentioned is a long way from the packaged industrial product that party promoters and nightlife entrepreneurs sell us. Progress has led to the degeneration of the free spirit that could be felt here up until only a decade ago and today it is mixed up with the masses of partying tourists who come like puppets to be manipulated by the party mafia.

The best is still to come; the untold anecdotes and stories that we will be publishing in the next edition. In the meantime, you can visit the Facebook page “Ku Ibiza Best Years”, where there are 100s of photos of the best moments of Ku Ibiza.
Carucha de Rivera      Collection Faruk Gandij
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