Before the 'Para Para' or 'Macarena' dance, there was 'Mambo Jambo'.
Most party-going Singaporeans would remember dancing to Belinda Carlisle's 'Summer Rain' or Bananarama's 'Love in the First Degree' to synchonised hand movements every Wednesday at Zouk.
The club's mid-week night was the longest running club night in the world, running weekly consecutively for 21 years. And in the process, it became a cultural phenomenon in Singapore, and a rite of passage for thousands of young Singaporeans.
Musician Dave Tan, 40, frontman of Singapore band Electrico, has taken it upon himself to document this special part of Singapore nightlife in a new film that he is making, titled 'Blame It on the Boogie'.
“'Mambo Jambo' is one of very few iconic phenomenons that is 100-per-cent local, and touched a generation of youth," Tan said.
He added that there "are countless stories to tell and it deserves to be documented in a comprehensive and entertaining way".
'Mambo Jambo', which featured retro music, was born out of a monthly dance music event called 'Thank God It's Wednesday', co-organised by Zouk and a radio music station in 1992, and it then evolved and became a clubbing instituition and brand name.
But in July 2012, Zouk decided to rebrand its Wednesday night party themes and reverted to its original name, TGIW (Thank God it’s Wednesday). Retro music was played in another section of the club, while TGIW featured more current pop songs, hip-hop and electronic dance music.
Tan said: “I used to go religiously, and saw it evolve over the years. While outsiders might assume it was just a night where people synchronise dancing to retro music, Mambo Jambo embodied much more. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been the phenomenon it was, and wouldn’t have lasted so many years. There is a really interesting set of stories surrounding this piece of our history, and I want to tell it in this film."
With Zouk slated to move out of its current premises either end of 2015 or end of 2017, it will be a race against time to complete the film.
"It's imperative that we finish filming in the original location, and it’s an appropriate part of our SG50 celebrations. I’ve taken time off from my other work, to focus on finishing this," Tan said. He recently left his job at MTV Networks to devote himself to the film full-time.
The film will be fully self-funded, but Tan is planning a crowd-funding campaign, which should launch in June, to help cover costs.
One of the biggest challenges of the project will be in sourcing for material that was not as easy to record before the smartphone era.
Tan is on the hunt for anything related to 'Mambo Jambo', from photos, posters, videos and flyers to news clippings or any other memorabilia.
"At the end of the day, this is a film to document something truly iconic in Singapore’s pop culture history, an archive that all Singaporeans can share, and that may inspire future generations."
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