Whether you were there to experience the early sounds of Balearic and techno, bounced to the adrenaline-fuelled wave of EDM, or never set foot in the local club mecca at all, Zouk’s lasting impact on Singapore’s club scene is undisputed. Having dispatched the hallmarks of dance for 25 years, the club finally said goodbye to its home at Jiak Kim Street in 2016 – but not before going out with a bang and revisiting its roots with nights like Balearic and Readyset Glo. Now that the club has relocated to the brightly lit nightlife district of Clarke Quay and has donned a swanky new look and configuration, is there any need to pay further tribute to Zouk’s former glory days? Those involved in organising ONE MORE TIME certainly think so, and they're switching up the formula for an evening that won't be soon forgotten.
Presented by The Henderson Project and pooling the collective talent of a number of creative trailblazers and local performers, ONE MORE TIME sees the music that shaped Zouk, from its early days to the present, translated through a 50-piece orchestra across two nights. Reminiscent of drum & bass legend Goldie’s rendition of “Time (Sine Tempore)” with The Heritage Orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall, ONE MORE TIME similarly reinterprets club music through classical instruments, evoking the power of movement in the unlikely, but majestic, setting of Capitol Theatre. From those whose feet dominated the Jiak Kim stomping grounds from the start, to those who never had the chance, new arrangements of club classics like Faithless’ “Insomnia” will have audiences reeling in a fresh take on the sounds that defined an era. Concert Director, former Zouk resident DJ, and the brains behind the longstanding ONE WITH ALDRINnights, Aldrin Quek, speaks to us on why the Jiak Kim days deserve one last orchestral au revoir.
How would you say Zouk has pushed dance music in Singapore over the years?
From the early pre-’95 Balearic years through to the more mainstream EDM sounds of recent years, Zouk has remained at the forefront as purveyors of dance music, giving local clubbers a home to discover new and exciting dance music. They have been supporting the global dance scene by brining in the freshest and biggest international acts, while nurturing and exporting homegrown talent.
What made you want to embark on this project with composer Indra Ismail?
He came highly recommended, and it has been nothing short of wow since we started working together! A true musician; extremely experienced with both classical and pop music and, although he claims he is not very familiar with dance music, he immediately understood my vision without needing any discussion, and effortlessly transcribed the dance tracks. He even added a little of his own flavour into the mix!
What have your rehearsals and jam sessions with the orchestra been like?
So far, we had one jam session with the rhythm section (drums, bass guitar, guitars, keyboards and percussion) and, I must say, it was already very exciting hearing the band firing up the grooves of the concert’s first seven songs!
We also had a workshop with some dance music producers, DJs, and a small string section. It was a great experience for classically trained musicians – the intricacies and difficulties of trying to replicate the repetitive patterns of dance tracks drives home how close and converging some of this music is to modern "classical" music. It also allowed the electronic producers and DJs to understand the limitations of using acoustic instruments and, at the same time, hear a different heartbeat within these live sounds.
"House music is all about loops and layers, so with a wide variety of instruments, an orchestra can give greater depth, colour and richness to the synthesised, sampled, electronic beats."
In your opinion, what is it about house music that works so well in the orchestral format?
House music is all about loops and layers, so with a wide variety of instruments, an orchestra can give greater depth, colour and richness to the synthesised, sampled, electronic beats. Besides, anything organic and live just sounds better!
ONE MORE TIME also features performances by Maniam, Rani Singam and X’ho, amongst others. How did you decide on whom to collaborate with?
Maniam has been a legend at Zouk for many years and any tribute would not be possible without him. You really can get lost in his groove! X'Ho is just apt for a particular spoken word track; he also has a long relationship with Zouk. Singers like Rani, Vanessa Fernandez, Alemay Fernandez and Hazrul Nizam are the best in Singapore to be able to not just micmic, but add to and heighten the music we have chosen. All have amazing voices and will have solos, as well as pieces in which they will sing together. There is also Kaye, who is an excellent saxophonist with a lot of soul and style, who’s also currently very active in the local underground dance scene via his Darker Than Wax outfit.
Why is house music special to you?
Because I made a career out of it! Honestly, since the early ’80s, I’ve always been more intrigued by electronic sounds, so I feel that bands like Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Yazoo, The Human League, The Art Of Noise, etc. were all writing the blueprints of the house music that we know and love today. Over the last two decades, it is amazing to see how electronic dance music grew at such an astounding rate, and I’m truly blessed to have been, and still be, witness to it, and to be actively involved in a small part of its journey.
What would you like the audience to take away from ONE MORE TIME?
Sore feet from dancing, and a warm fuzzy feeling from the music and the friendships of 25 years, as seen through refreshed eyes.
Check out the video below to go behind the scenes of the production, which includes previews of how Zouk’s club staples are transformed into orchestral arrangements: