48-piece orchestra to pay homage to club tunes made popular by Zouk

Aldrin Quek, former resident DJ of Zouk, is the artistic director of One More Time - A Tribute To Zouk At Jiak Kim Street.
Aldrin Quek, former resident DJ of Zouk, is the artistic director of One More Time - A Tribute To Zouk At Jiak Kim Street.PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE HENDERSON PROJECT

A concert combines a party and a classical orchestra playing house tunes in a homage to 25 years of the iconic nightspot at its former premises

An ambitious new production will see a 48-piece orchestra, including violinists, cellists and percussionists, play electronic club hits non-stop for 90 minutes in a laser- lit Capitol Theatre.

The event, called One More Time - A Tribute To Zouk At Jiak Kim Street - pays homage to the 25-year history of the iconic nightspot in its former premises.

It moved to Clarke Quay last December.

The production is by The Henderson Project, an offshoot of theatre company Dream Academy.

The Henderson Project's founder Selena Tan is directing the show, with the help of entertainer Najip Ali as the creative consultant.

  • BOOK IT / ONE MORE TIME - A TRIBUTE TO ZOUK AT JIAK KIM STREET

  • WHERE: Capitol Theatre, 17 Stamford Road

    WHEN: March 24 and 25, 8.30pm till late (doors open from 7.30pm for ticket-holders to buy drink coupons)

    ADMISSION: $148 to $168 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

    INFO: For 18-year-olds and above only. Go to www.facebook.com/thehendersonproject for more information

The concert, which will be followed by an afterparty till late, will take place on March 24 and 25.

Unlike a regular classical concert, members of the audience will be able to dance along to the music. The stalls of the theatre, usually filled with seats, will be left empty to create a standing section, with tickets priced at $148.

There will be circle seats on the upper level. Tickets come in two prices - $158 and $168, which will give ticket-holders access to the dancefloor below.

There will also be two bars selling drinks - indoors on the first floor and outdoors for the upper level. While the concert starts at 8.30pm, drinks coupons will be sold an hour earlier.

The music is selected by Aldrin Quek, Zouk's resident DJ from 1996 to 2007 and its ambassador until 2015. He is the artistic director of the event. He not only went through his old vinyl, CD and MP3 collections to pick the Zouk anthems, but also consulted local DJs and clubbers from different generations for their feedback on his song list.

"Every clubber has a very different idea of what Zouk in Jiak Kim Street was to them and 25 years would have seen at least a few generations of clubbers going through Zouk's doors," says Quek, 47.

In the end, he decided to go with his "gut feel as a DJ and decide on what's best to make a great party for as many people as possible".

The final selection of 30 tracks, which includes hits such as Insomnia by Faithless and Rej by Ame, represents the different genres of music played over the years in Zouk's four rooms - its main room, Velvet Underground, Phuture and Wine Bar.

The event also has the stamp of approval from Zouk founder and former owner Lincoln Cheng, 69. The club was sold to conglomerate Genting Hong Kong in 2015.

Mr Cheng, a major sponsor of the event, says he felt the need for "something to remember Zouk in Jiak Kim Street by", adding that the music was "my memories and many others' memories of Zouk".

The project is also supported by a production grant from the National Arts Council.

Big names have been roped in on the orchestra music front.

Conductor and composer Indra Ismail, the project's music director, has been tasked to orchestrate the 90-minute set, which he describes as "very challenging".

For example, a sound from a house song, created using a computer, may require different instruments playing together to achieve a similar effect.

The orchestra comprises string, brass and wind instruments alongside a rhythm section with modern instruments, including electric guitars and drum sets.

Most of the musicians have to be onstage throughout the 90 minutes to match the non-stop energetic pace of house music.

"In particular, the rhythm section has to pump all the way so that the energy is constantly there. The drummers are the backbone of the music, but everyone has got to do his part," says Indra, 51.

Guest musicians include Singapore Symphony Orchestra violinist Lynnette Seah, tabla player M.S. Maniam (once a familiar face in Zouk), jazz singer Rani Singam and singer Hazrul Nizam.

A similar mixing of genres has been done before, most notably by BBC Radio 1 with its well-received Ibiza Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2015 and last year.

Tan and her husband, John Pok, had watched a similar show in London's Royal Festival Hall about four years ago, where electronic music was recreated with acoustic instruments.

"We were blown away by that and thought something like it could never happen in Singapore," says Tan, 45.

Then two years ago, after watching Ibiza Prom on YouTube, the pair felt that it was possible to recreate something similar here.

Tan already had experience throwing parties with an art element with The Henderson Project, which she started with Pok in 2014.

But it was news of Zouk moving out of Jiak Kim that gave their idea steam.

Tan and her husband are fans of the nightspot and house music. They plan to tour the production regionally if it proves successful.

Tan says: "We needed a reason to do it. Now we have a reason. We are celebrating a moment in Singapore's history. So many of us grew up having Zouk as a part of our lives."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'Remembering Zouk in Jiak Kim'. Print Edition | Subscribe