Thursday, December 3, 2009

Zouk Singapore

Still think Singapore is boring? Then you probably haven't visited here in quite a while. Check out this slightly revised version of an article I wrote in 2007 for the Manila Bulletin. It's certainly reflective of the increasingly eventful nightlife there.


ITS name is actually taken from the French Carribean word for “village party.”

And that's exactly what you always get at Zouk, the club that has come to define Singapore's vibrant nightlife. Norman Cook a.k.a Fatboy Slim considers it as “one of the best clubs in the world” while Trance guru Paul Oakenfold regards it as “the club of the future, no question.”

So what's so special about Zouk and what makes it different from the other clubs, based in Singapore or elsewhere in the world? You've heard of warehouse parties, right? Zouk literally took the concept a little further when it transformed three old warehouses built on the Singapore River back in 1919 into three interconnecting clubs starting with Zouk itself in 1991, then Velvet Underground in 1994 and finally, Phuture in 1996.

Zouk boasts of state-of-the-art sound and lighting and a huge dancefloor where every inch is usually fully occupied by house and techno revelers starting at the stroke of midnight. Seven resident DJ's and visiting artists that include the Chemical Brothers, M People, Bjork, Kylie Minogue, Sasha, John Digweed, Tiesto, Paul Van Dyk and of course, Cook and Oakenfold have all contributed to what this world-class dance club has become today.

But patrons don't have to wait until the clock strikes 12 in order to get their Zouk fix. The other clubs are so designed to either prepare you for the pulsating rhythms ahead or cool you off in between the hot and heavy dancefloor action. A more laidback ambiance awaits you at the Velvet Underground lounge where its soul and garage music is nicely complemented by by its velvet wall interiors and original modern art works.

For those looking for something more eclectic, there's Phuture adjoining Zouk's main building. Here, the music is a nice mix of trip hop, down tempo and the like. Atmosphere-wise, Phuture, as its name suggests does have a space age feel to it, with its own, well, futuristic lighting, liquids-in-glass vials and metal interiors. Then there's also the Wine Bar, Zouk's official “pre-club and chill out area” just outside its doors.

But as impressive as Zouk is from an architectural and interior design standpoint, what really defines this premier party place in Singapore (and now in Kuala Lumpur) is really the people. There's something about the diversity of the 1,000-capacity Zouk crowd that I for one, find very fascinating. It's an odd but happy mix of students, bankers, lawyers, models, hairstylists and more, from all walks of life and practically of all ages—lending credence to the club's tagline of “One World, One Music, One Tribe, One Dance.”

Why Zouk was able to attract a diverse crowd like this may have something to do with the Mambo Jambo theme night that it has successfully pioneered. See, back when Zouk was first opened, its original vision was to introduce House music to Singapore, something that most Singaporeans haven't even heard of back in 1991. So Zouk introduced a blend of music that incorporated pop hits from the 70’s and 80’s with house music that made the playlist rotation every Wednesday nights.

Some of the more popular “retro” dance tunes that were quickly embraced by the Zouk crowd along with the newer house tracks were Bananarama's “Love In The First Degree,” Shannon's “Let The Music Play,” Al Corley's “Square Rooms,” KC & The Sunshine Band's “Give It Up,” the Village People's “YMCA” and oh, yes, Rick Astley's “Together Forever.” Man, Roderick Paulate will feel very much at home here at Zouk.

Zouk's much-awaited Wedneday nights, later dubbed as Mambo Jambo became increasingly popular with the clubbing crowd and became one of the main highlights of the Singapore’s clubbing scene in general as rock, dance and hip-hop was later added to Mambo Jambo's merry mix of House-driven dance hits.

The Mambo Jambo concept of Zouk became so popular that a CD was released in 1998. When the Ministry of Sound decided to give Zouk a good run for its money when it opened in December of 2005, it was noticeable that it seemed to follow the former's winning formula: a huge dancefloor that played techno and house music and several genre-specific rooms (or clubs-within a club) including one that played 70’s and 80’s disco classics.

In addition to the many artists and events that it hosts every year. Zouk also stages ZoukOut, a dusk-till-dawn annual year-end ball that is also touted as one of the world's best parties since it was first organized in 2000. ZoukOut 2006 drew a record crowd of 20,000 party animals who danced the night (and morning) away at Sentosa Island's Silosa Beach.

During my last visit to Singapore late last year, both Zouk and the Ministry of Sound were part of our group's itinerary. While we had a great time at both clubs and I for one, will have to admit that the clubbing experience they they respectively offer is like nothing else I have ever seen, I have to give a slight edge to Zouk. Perhaps because of its more established reputation, it comes off as more loose and judging from the merry faces of its diverse patrons, just a tad more fun.

As its name suggests, Zouk does define partying like no other club can.

Zouk is located at 17 Jiak Kim Street, Singapore. Also, visit its official site at

A video glimpse of Zouk:

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