Feature

'Save Zouk' campaign goes global

By Anjali RaguramanEvents - 26 June 2014 11:00 AM | Updated 27 June 2014

'Save Zouk' campaign goes global

It is arguably the most visible and sought-after dance music party ground and nightclub venue in Asia, bringing in the likes of everyone from Bjork in 1996 (before she started wearing swan dresses) to modern-day House music juggernauts Disclosure earlier this year.

Beyond its hallowed doors at Jiak Kim Steet, Zouk has carved for itself a decorated history, bringing together a congregation of dance music lovers in 23 years.

With a rotating roster of the current who’s who of dance music - David Guetta, Avicii, Tiesto, Hardwell, Afrojack, Hardwell and Laidback Luke, to the stalwarts Carl Cox, Pete Tong, Gilles Peterson, and the late great Frankie Knuckles, the iconic nightclub has not stopped pulsating.

But now it is threatened with a no-lease extension ultimatum that could see it closed at the end of 2014, and the nightclub has turned to rallying troops via an online ‘Save Zouk’ campaign.

The Singapore Land Authority has already extended the lease three times since 2012, when it was originally due to end.

A statement on the nightclub's site says: “We’re planning our last ZoukOut this year + a series of big bang parties before our lease on Jiak Kim Street expires at the end of this year. Yes, just 6 months.”

As of 25 June, the online petition to extend the lease has garnered more than 26,780 pledges.

Read also: ZoukOut 2013: They came, they raved, they loved

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

The campaign has also gained international support from the likes of DJs Laidback Luke, Showtek and major dance music publications Mixmag and DJ Mag.

DJ Mag, an influential music magazine from the UK, ranked Zouk as the seventh best club in the world in its most recent annual list, which also featured other nightlife institutions such as Pacha in Ibiza and Fabric in London.

However, Tom Kihl, a former deputy editor of DJ Mag, said that this sort of “hashtag activism” has “quite limited value as it allows people to spend less than 5 seconds ‘campaigning’ before moving on to the next distraction in their social media feed”.

Still, he sees the merits in such campaigns and the change they may spur.

In London, the iconic Ministry of Sound has been facing threats that it would be pushed out by real estate developments for many years. Kihl, who now runs a media company in London, recalled how the "clever use of all available media channels created a groundswell of emotion and support" for the campaign. With sufficient pressure on London’s mayor Boris Johnson, the club worked out a deal with land developers and is still running.

Kihl told inSing: “As such an established venue, the outpouring of love for Zouk will be huge, and the campaign already seems to be well and truly global.” 

RITE OF PASSAGE

The campaign is accompanied by a video montage of Singaporeans recalling fond memories of misty-eyed, alcohol-fuelled nights spent on the dance floors of Zouk.

It seems going to Zouk when youth reach the legal age for alcohol consumption is a rite of passage of sorts.

Student Jeevan Joel, 23, is one of those who first went to Zouk on his 18th birthday, “and I haven’t stopped since”, he quipped.

Eat, sleep, rave, repeat. Zouk plays host to thousands of clubbers every week (Photo: Facebook / Zouk Singapore)

A VIP member who is a faithful patron at Zouk (he is there three times a week or once every fortnight), he cannot believe that the nightclub could possibly shut down. 

He added: “My friends and I have shared countless memories together in Zouk. And we are all close to the bar crew and managers. It’s really like we’re all one big party family.”

LOSS OF HERITAGE

The possible closure of Zouk also comes as the Robertson Quay area is being developed as a residential and housing enclave.There is also talk in the media that the club may consider relocating to the Singapore Flyer.

Ungku Muhammad Ibrahim Ungku Baharudin, 33, a nightlife photographer who has been in the scene for more than 10 years and who has photographed DJ sets and gigs at Zouk for the last four years, is convinced that if Zouk moves to a different location, it will lose “all the heritage, and all the heart and soul".

The three old warehouses that make up the original Zouk were built in 1919 on the Singapore river and renovated to form what is now the iconic club (Photo: Facebook/ Zouk Singapore)

He is hopeful that the Save Zouk campaign can work, but he has his doubts, citing other Singapore icons such as the old National Library and Bukit Brown cemetery that have had to make way for development. 

Kihl added: "I always thought having one of the top nightclubs on the planet was an important part of Singapore’s growth as a nation but, much like here in London, the significance of such music culture is given far too little value – especially when it gets in the way of plans to build soul-less luxury apartments."