It’s easy to have a predetermined mental picture of Bebop even before stepping into the bar in Senopati. Those who are familiar with the Japanese anime series “Cowboy Bebop” may be forgiven for expecting a watering hole basing its whole personality on the series as well as an interior stuffed with kitschy manga knick-knacks.
While the name of the bar is indeed based on the spaceship from the series, the Bebop, the four co-founders Shawn Andrew, Geoffrey Alexander, Monty Hassan and Kara Chenoa are more nuanced when it comes to the execution. Tapping into Shawn’s experience of studying in Japan and working part-time at izakayas, Bebop fundamentally takes its foundation from a Japanese jazz bar (Bebop itself is also a style of jazz developed in the early ‘40s in the US). The latter is usually characterised by a compact space where regulars gather for music and cocktails, essentially a music library where you can drink.
And at Bebop, music and drinks are the pillars of the bar. Case in point, the interior is sound treated with acoustic panels on walls and ceilings to amp up the listening experience while allowing patrons to engage in conversations without shouting to be heard. LED strip visualizer that lined the ceiling further lends Bebop an atmospheric neo-futuristic vibe.
Just like the genre-crossing nature of “Cowboy Bebop”, the music played at the bar also takes on a more fluid stance. For instance, come every Thursday, resident DJ Reemo works the dance floor with his blend of jazz, funk, soul and everything in between. Monty, who is the music director, described it as an “unorthodox approach towards music, especially when you hear a genre like bebop, it’s upbeat and energetic. We kind of want to reintroduce that sort of music and set the tone to accommodate both crowds. You can be sitting and chatting, or standing and dancing.”
Drinks-wise, there is something for everyone within their signature cocktails. There’s the crowd-pleasing whisky-based Watanabe that Shawn, Bebop’s head of operations, described as a homage to the anime’s creator Shinichirō Watanabe, “There’s earl grey syrup because he loves to drink tea.” Inaka Gimlet (with its gin-infused konbu, sesame oil and lime juice) would appeal to the adventurous drinker. And of course, Suntory Mega Highball offers a no-brainer choice to carry you through the night.
Bebop attracts a mixed bag of discernable stylish crowds who are drawn to its hideaway quality. A component that architect and interior designer duo, Rama and Romi Dwiwahyu, place an emphasis on. The bar, with its sleek wooden panels, textured concrete walls and pillars, is free from cliche trappings and opens up to many interpretations. While one doesn’t need to have seen an episode of the anime to enjoy the drinks and music, easter eggs hidden in plain sight—like the neon sign by the kitchen window that reads ‘tomato’—will spark excitement in fellow fans. If you know, you know.
Granted, at Bebop, it is the kind of bar that pays to be sociable. But come weekday nights, it also serves as an ideal spot to wind down after work and chow into their classic Yōshoku dishes, like the hearty Spaghetti Napolitan and the foolproof Takoyaki.
In a way, Bebop is a physical manifestation of the founders’ backgrounds as third-culture kids, as seen through the large pool of influences they draw from. At Bebop, it’s what you make of the bar: lively, eclectic but defies definition all at once.