Lights, sound, Zouk

A UFO-like light feature is suspended over Zouk’s main dance floor, shooting out beams of light in various formations.
PHOTO: Zouk Singapore

A spaceship has docked at the new Zouk at Clarke Quay.

Hovering over the main dance floor, it shoots out beams of light in various formations and "floats" up and down over revellers.

This UFO-like feature, affectionately titled the "mothership" by its designers, is one of the many high- tech and futuristic features at the new superclub.

In many ways, the opening of the new Zouk tomorrow is a special alien landing in itself.

Punters will likely approach it with equal parts curiosity and caution.

They are probably wondering how the club will look under its new owner, casino and cruise-line conglomerate Genting Hong Kong (GHK), which bought Zouk from its founder Lincoln Cheng for an undisclosed sum late last year.

Club regulars are a sentimental, loyal bunch.

They gave an emotional farewell to the old nightspot two weeks ago, queueing for hours before Zouk opened for its last party on Dec 3.

At 7.40am the next day, as the house lights came on, they cried as the last song, The Beatles' Let It Be, played.

Is the old Zouk gone forever? Is the new club a worthy successor? The Straits Times pays a visit.

The new Zouk is housed in The Cannery, a space once occupied by Ministry of Sound and Zirca.

At 898 sq m, the area is about the same size as the old premises.

But the interiors are completely different.

The old club had an iconic biomorphic design, with organic forms and curves in its walls.

The new Zouk is sharper and neo-industrial in vibe, with details such as exposed brick walls and metal grilles.

The first floor is dedicated to the two dance zones that were mainstays in the old club: the main Zouk dance floor, which plays dance music by resident and international DJs and holds 1,900 partygoers; and Phuture, which plays hip-hop music and holds 700.

Read also: Final Zouk party at Jiak Kim Street

Singapore's iconic nightclub Zouk

  • Partygoers at Zouk Singapore
  • The facade of Zouk Singapore
  • Partygoers at Zouk Singapore
  • Partygoers at Zouk Singapore
  • Zouk's three marketing managers over the years namely Andrew Ing, Tracy Phillips and Sofie Chandra
  • Zouk's three marketing managers over the years namely Andrew Ing, Tracy Phillips and Sofie Chandra
  • Red Tail Bar, a new eatery by the folks behind Zouk Singapore, which features global-inspired drinks and food, following the "adventures" of their mascot - a red tail panda.
  • Miss Sofie Chandra, 32, head of marketing and events in Zouk, takes a minute to herself every year at ZoukOut to look at the event and take it all in. Photo taken in 2015.
  • Ms Ho Geok Lan, 68, is a toilet cleaner at Zouk and has worked there for the past 16 years. She has stories of drunk clubbers vomitting on her, and how she keeps sweets in her pocket to give clubbers as she thinks it would make them feel better. Photo taken in 2015.
  • Gabriel Ling, 25, floor supervisor at Zouk, takes pride in the unique culture of Zouk, as there is no drink menu available. He enjoys telling people that he is the drinks menu, and feels satsified when customers are impressed with his knowledge and his good service. Photo taken in 2015.
  • Miss Vickie Lee, 50, security supervisor at Zouk, has been working there for 10 years. She recalls how she had to carry six drunk girls out of the club on her first night working there, and had cramps in her hands as she was too tired. Photo taken in 2015.
  • Jeremy Boon, 45, has been working in Zouk since it opened in 1991. The DJ remembers how the staff of Zouk were shocked to hear the kind of music they planned to play at the club, as it steered away from the popular Top 40 genre. Photo taken in 2015.
  • Patrons inside Zouk
  • The crowd outside Zouk
  • Mr Ian Toh in his Ant-Man costume and riding Anthony outside Zouk. Mr Toh was named the best dressed at Zouk's Halloween party on 31 October 2015.
  • Partons at Zouk's Halloween party in 2014
  • Zouk's managing director Esther Soh, financial director Anthony Wong, executive director Adeline Cheng, executive chairman Lincoln Cheng and Mr Cheng's daughter Isabel. Photo taken in 2015.
  • Zouk's head of marketing and events Sofie Chandra, Mr Francis Lau, head of operations, Mr Wayne Lee, head of entertainment and Mr Benny Heng, Zouk's newly-appointed managing director. Photo taken in 2015.
  • Facade of Zouk
  • Mr Lincoln Cheng, Zouk founder
  • People partying and dancing at Zouk
  • People partying at Zouk Singapore
  • Three derelict warehouses in Jiak Kim Street were transformed into Zouk, one of the oldest and most popular nightclubs in Singapore, in 1991. The club used to house a boutique as well as a restaurant, among other things.
  • Zouk’s Velvet Underground
  • The Phuture, one of four party venues at Zouk, launched in 1996, where urban beats, R&B and hip-hop feature prominently.
  • Mr Lincoln Cheng, founder of Zouk, infront of Zouk at Jiak Kim Street on 1 July 2015.
  • Mr Lincoln Cheng, founder and director of popular dance club Zouk.
  • The exterior of Zouk, a popular dance club at Jiak Kim Street
  • Crowd outside the popular nightspot Zouk in Jiak Kim Street.
  • Partygoers at Zouk's 2013 Halloween bash.

The difference is that the two zones can be combined into a gigantic dance floor.

The wall separating them is a series of soundproof panels that can be removed for special occasions, such as Zouk's official opening night on Jan 13, for which American superstar DJ-producer Diplo will be flown in.

Also, in the past, with the lack of live-feed television screens, partygoers had to crane their necks to see the action on stage.

In the new club, huge live-streaming screens will be mounted behind the five bar counters so that no one misses the action.

Meanwhile, house music fans may lament the fact that Velvet Underground and Velvet Lounge are not returning, but a yet-to-be- named third club concept that occupies part of the second floor may provide some consolation.

For old-timers, there are nods to history. The curvy DJ console in the main room mimics the fluid forms of Zouk in Jiak Kim, and the toilets on the second floor have communal wash basins - just like at the old club. The new Zouk will also sound like the old one.

The sound system, designed by renowned audio engineer Gary Stewart and used in Jiak Kim for its 25-year tenure, has been retained.

GHK's chief information officer Hui Lim, 32, was the brains behind the revamp, which cost an "eight- figure sum".

The Malaysian is the eldest son of Mr Lim Kok Thay, chairman and chief executive of Genting Berhad, the holding company of the Genting Group.

The younger Mr Lim says he wants to respect the club built by Mr Cheng while scaling it up internationally into a bigger nightlife and entertainment brand.

He notes that when Zouk opened in 1991, it was a cutting-edge product for a niche audience.

Read also: ZoukOut still thrills

ZoukOut 2016 sees 41,000 partygoers over 2 days

  • Snakehips performing at the Star Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa.
  • Martin Garrix performing on the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016.
  • Martin Garrix waving a Singapore flag as he performs on the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016.
  • Martin Garrix performing on the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016.
  • Zedd performing his set at the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016.
  • Zedd performing his set at the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016.
  • Zedd performing his set at the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016.
  • Party goers watching and taking photos of Zedd's set at the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016.
  • Russian-German DJ/producer Zedd spinning at the ZoukOut 2016 held at Siloso Beach in Sentosa on 9 & 10 December 2016.
  • Fireworks go up as Russian-German DJ/producer Zedd concludes his set at Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 held at the Siloso Beach Sentosa on 9 & 10 December 2016.
  • (L-R) Party goers Yue Jie, 22, Andrew Kho, 30, Michelle Ng, 21, Mark Ong, 18, and Kah Hong, 18, at the Star Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016. ZoukOut 2016 returns.The two-night annual beach music festival at Siloso Beach on Sentosa, is now in its 16th year.
  • Party goers dancing at the Star Stage at ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach in Sentosa on 9 & 10 December 2016.
  • Party goer Michelle Ng, dressed in a banana costume, dancing at the Star Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016. ZoukOut 2016 returns.The two-night annual beach music festival at Siloso Beach on Sentosa, is now in its 16th year.
  • Party goers dancing in the rain at the Star Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 11, 2016. ZoukOut 2016 returns.The two-night annual beach music festival at Siloso Beach on Sentosa, is now in its 16th year.
  • Party goers revelling in the music by Alan Walker at the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 10, 2016. ZoukOut 2016 returns.The two-night annual beach music festival at Siloso Beach on Sentosa, is now in its 16th year.
  • Party goers Dora Gyorfi (perched left) and Yuri Igarashi (perched right) revelling in the music and atmosphere at the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 10, 2016. ZoukOut 2016 returns.
  • Party goers revelling in the music and atmosphere at the Moon Stage during ZoukOut 2016 at the Siloso Beach on Sentosa on Dec 10, 2016. ZoukOut 2016 returns.
  • Partygoers at Dutch DJ Hardwell's set on the first night of Zoukout at Siloso Beach in Sentosa.
  • Dutch DJ Hardwell's set on the first night of Zoukout at Siloso Beach in Sentosa.
  • DJ Lost Frequencies at his gig on the first night of ZoukOut at Siloso Beach, Sentosa.
  • Crowds at DJ Dillon Francis's gig on the first night of Zoukout at Silosa Beach in Sentosa.
  • First night of Zoukout at Siloso Beach, Sentosa.

"I respect Lincoln Cheng for his forward- thinking vision, but now, dance clubs have become more holistic in terms of being a part of the bigger entertainment industry."

Hence, Zouk is moving rapidly from a standalone nightclub in a quiet street into a global lifestyle brand, starting with Zouk At Sea, a club housed in Genting Dream, GHK's newest cruise ship.

It is also venturing into food and beverage with the September launch of Asian-themed restaurant and bar Red Tail, a pre-party spot located about 200m from Zouk.

And the cogs are in motion to take the ZoukOut dance festivals to the rest of Asia, with a series of pre- ZoukOut shows in Boracay, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Mr Lim says the real testament to the brand's success is "when we get off these shores".

He adds: "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."

 

He does not write off future expansion to Europe and the United States. And he rubbishes talk that rapid growth might dilute the Zouk brand.

"Why do we have to keep it a hidden gem in Singapore? Zouk has been a huge success here, why don't we share it with the world?"

And to sceptics who feel Zouk might lose its soul after moving to its new digs, he says they have to experience it for themselves before making judgment.

"We're trying to elevate the product and, hopefully with that, widen the target demographic for the club. We believe that Zouk at Clarke Quay is a flagship product and Singapore is always home for Zouk."

anjalir@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 16, 2016.
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