Party in silence

Silent Disco Asia throws parties where revellers don headphones and choose the music they want to jive to

On the open grounds of the colonial bungalow space in Upper Wilkie Road occupied by bar Kult Kafe, 300 people had a dance party - without anyone else in the vicinity hearing a peep.

A party without audible music? Yup, that is Silent Disco Asia.

It is an alternative music concept where partygoers tune into the music by donning a pair of wireless light-up LED (light-emitting diode), noisecancelling headphones that also include their own volume control. With the headphones, dancers can jive to their own beat, while others who choose to chat over drinks can do so without yelling over any music.

The concept - which was brought to Singapore from London as an offshoot of the "Silent Disco" brand, famous for hosting parties on the 69th floor of The Shard - is not entirely new here, but such quiet parties have never been held regularly.

But it seems that there is a healthy demand for them. The first edition of Silent Disco Asia that happened last weekend was popular, with the 300 tickets for the Saturday night launch party selling out in five days. In response, the organisers organised another silent party the following day, at restaurant and bar Cato, located in South Bridge Road. The 250 tickets for the second night sold out a month before the event.

Recently, creative parties with unusual concepts are having a small Renaissance.

Besides Silent Disco, there is the Under The Bridge series - a string of free dance parties held at out-of-the-way "secret" venues every few months, with the locations released on the group's Facebook page on the day of the event.

The most recent party, held at restaurant and bar Tin Hill Social at Turf City last Saturday, drew nearly 1,500 partygoers, many of whom went for the festival-like atmosphere and eclectic electronic music.

There were artworks, cartoon screenings and glow-in-the-dark face painting to create a festival ambience, as well as $10 beers and mixed drinks sold all night.

Being non-profit, the group also makes donations to charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Red Cross after each party.

The parties are planned by an anonymous collective of professionals and events and art consultancy Mi5chief Makers.

A spokesman for the collective says: "It's a passion project, so we're not in it to make money. We just want to throw awesome parties that we enjoy with our friends."

Finance professional David Tan, 33, who was at Tin Hill Social last week, likes the affordable alcohol menu.

He says: "It is plain extortion to go out and have to spend hundreds of dollars at a club to have fun. Partying should be about enjoying good music with friends."

For many partygoers, these events are a welcome departure from the staid, cookie-cutter clubs in Singapore.

Student Serene Pang, 22, who attended Silent Disco Asia's launch event at Kult Kafe on May 14, admits to not being much of a dancer. But that night, the "silent" atmosphere had her on her feet all night and even had her singing along with the crowd.

At the event, three DJs were spinning different genres of music on different stations at any one time and partygoers had the option to switch among them.

Each station also flashed a corresponding red, blue or green light on their headphones, so partygoers could see what other people were listening to. At any point, the music could be as diverse as Nirvana, Pharrell Williams and Michael Jackson - which added a completely different dimension to the dance floor. The DJs could also see who was "winning" the dance floor, which amped up their competitiveness to pull out the best tunes.

Silent Disco's British organisers, event management professionals Franc Gooding, 40, and his fiancee Samantha Lunney, 30, say they hope to have their next event on July 2. Details about the location and ticket prices will be updated on their Facebook page.

Mr Gooding says Silent Disco "creates a connection among strangers in a way that doesn't happen at conventional clubs".

"With your headphones on, you're in control of what you want to listen to and you immediately see who else is enjoying the same music. It's an incredible sensory experience, both visually and aurally, and it puts the music choice at the centre of the entire party experience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 22, 2016, with the headline 'Party in silence'. Print Edition | Subscribe