Buddha Bar

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Buddha-bar hotel paris logo.jpg
Location 15, in various countries
Type Bar
Opened 1996
Buddha Bar
Buddha Bar in Monaco

The Buddha-Bar is a bar, restaurant, and hotel franchise created by restaurateur Raymond Visan and DJ and interior designer Claude Challe, with its original location having opened in Paris, France in 1996.[1] The Buddha Bar "soon became a reference among foreign yuppies and wealthy tourists visiting the city",[1] and "has spawned numerous imitators",[2] becoming popular in part because of the DJ's choice of eclectic, avant-garde music. It became known internationally for issuing popular compilations of lounge, chill-out music and world music, also under the Buddha Bar brand, released by George V Records. Locations have since been opened in a number of other countries, although not without controversy arising from the theme.


Buddha Bar in Paris.

The original restaurant is a Buddha-themed "upscale bar-restaurant with an orientalist 'lounge' ambience" serving Asian cuisine,[1] with a two-story dining area dominated by a large statue of Buddha, and an upstairs bar in the form of a large, ornate dragon. The theme was inspired by the discovery of the space to be used, an antique basement archive with a mezzanine, "which suggested to the architects the idea of an oriental temple and its Buddha".[3]

Buddha Bar venues have been opened in various other locations, including Beirut, Budapest,[4] Dubai,[5] London,[6] Manila, Moscow, and Mexico City. In June 2012, a Washington, D.C. location closed after two years of operations, having "struggled after a poor critical reception"; while a New York City location was forced to change its name.[7]

Controversy with Buddhists[edit]

The use of the Buddha as a popular icon has been noted to be offensive to some conservative Buddhists.[8] In 2010, Buddhists in Jakarta protested the operating of a Buddha Bar in that city, asserting that "the use of their religious symbols in a venue serving alcohol was an affront to their religion".[9] The Jakarta location was co-owned by the daughter of Indonesian politician and former governor of the region Sutiyoso, and was closed by court order later that year.[10] It has been noted that record stores in Dubai "black out the image of the Buddha" on Buddha Bar CDs to avoid idolatry, but that the owners of the Buddha Bar restaurant in Dubai were permitted to build a two story Buddha within their establishment.[11]

See also the "Bodu Bala Sena" article about some "Buddha bar" controversies in Sri Lanka.

Compilation albums[edit]

Buddha Bar has issued compilation albums since 1999. In 2001, a Billboard Magazine critic placed the compilation in his "top ten" musical events of the year, noting the relationship between the restaurant franchise and the music produced by it:

Claude Challe, Buddha Bar (George V.). The legendary master of pop and dance music in France has aroused the attention of the global chill-out community with this series of mixed compilations. Buddha Bar is not only a good restaurant in France but also one of the best music experiments to come out of France in the past few years.[12]

Another commentator wrote:

Challe quit his partnership in 1993 and returned to Paris where he subsequently opened the internationally acclaimed Buddha Bar. ... Similarly to Café del Mar, Buddha Bar also released CD compilations featuring 'lounge,' 'world' music, a successful enterprise that suggests the striking inequalities associated with the commodification of Third-World art: whereas cassette tapes of Pakistani singer Nusrat Ali Khan are sold in India for about US$1, the same songs remixed within a deluxe Buddha Bar CD are priced in the West at about US$50.[1]

Challe compiled and produced the first two Buddha Bar albums. The series thereafter continued with different DJs, including DJ Ravin, Sam Popat, and David Visan (son of Buddha Bar founder Raymond Visan).[13] The Buddha Bar has also released some original music for its albums, specifically the songs "Buddha Bar Nature" and "Buddha-Bar Ocean", composed and produced by Arno Elias, the composer of "Amor Amor" from Buddha Bar 2, and Amanaska. This release included a DVD of nature and ocean footage directed by Allain Bougrain-Dubourg.

Compilation discography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Anthony D'Andrea, Global Nomads: Techno and New Age as Transnational Countercultures in Ibiza and Goa (2007), p. 93.
  2. ^ Bethan Ryder, Bar and Club Design ( 2006), p. 18.
  3. ^ Hugo Montanaro, "Buddha Bar", The Best of Bars & Restaurants (1998), p. 72-77.
  4. ^ David Landry, "Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest takes prestigious prize", Budapest Business Journal (December 9, 2013).
  5. ^ Time Out Dubai (2009), p. 149.
  6. ^ "Buddha Bar London- The Parisians are Coming". The Handbook. October 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ Missy Frederick, "D.C.'s Buddha Bar appears to have closed", Washington Business Journal (June 19, 2012).
  8. ^ Damien Keown, Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (2013), Chapter 6, isbn 0191640506.
  9. ^ Sara Schonhardt, "Food Fridays: A Tasteful Journey Through Jakarta History", Southeast Asia Real Time (December 6, 2013).
  10. ^ Lisa Siregar, "Kunstkring's Treasure Hunt to Redeem a Years-Old Wrong", Jakarta Globe (December 6, 2013).
  11. ^ Neha Vora, Impossible Citizens: Dubai’s Indian Diaspora (2013), p. 46.
  12. ^ Wolfgang Spahr, "The Year in Music 2001 - Critic's Choice", Billboard Magazine (December 29, 2001), Vol. 113, No. 52, p. 39.
  13. ^ Phil Meadley, "World Chill", Global Rhythm (2002), Volume 11, Issues 7-12, p. 242 (republished as a review of the album at World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East).

External links[edit]