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Go BackFREAK OUT AT ZOUK OUT! Aldrin tells all on Southeast Asia's largest electronic festival

Posted: 1/12/06 9:56

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  Before we talk about the where and why of ZoukOut, I think it's important to first discuss my own where and "why in God's name" set of circumstances. I freelance for the Voice from the frozen confines of Edmonton, Alberta in Western Canada. For the past two weeks, temperatures here have on average been about - 30 C, or - 40 C with wind chill – exposed skin can freeze in less than five minutes.

You can see why I'd be thinking so intently about a hot all-night DJ dance and beach party like ZoukOut in Singapore on December 9 at Siloso Beach, Sentosa...

Especially with the killer lineup of world-class electronic music acts taking to a variety of stages. Headlining are trance hero Ferry Corsten, dirty house honcho Steve Lawler, a Soulwax showcase (featuring Niteversions and 2 Many DJs), Matthew Dekay, Kerri Chandler, Jazzy Jeff and many, many more.

lso on the bill is Singapore's most well-known dance-music export, Aldrin. The veteran resident DJ of the Zouk Club – who spins everything from minimal to electro, tribal and progressive house, to tech house and techno – is also its bookings manager. So, attendees at this year's festival will have him, in part, to thank for all the happy memories. 

But not just Aldrin. This year, like every year, the festival has grown and for the better, welcoming not only new visitors, but also new entertainers. ZoukOut, says Aldrin, is taking great strides in become more diverse, whether it's through the inclusion of a film festival or the incorporation of graffiti artists. ZoukOut has positioned itself as a must-attend arts festival in South East Asia, attracting thousands of people from around the world...

Is there special significance to the December date ZoukOut is held on?
December is usually the time when everyone is in a festive mood. The tertiary schools are on holiday (which means students from both home and abroad are in town) and before expatriates go back to their respective homes for Christmas. Plus the weather is cooler! There's no particular significance. We simply feel that it's the best time of the year to hold the biggest regional party. 

What was the original idea for ZoukOut and how has it changed over the years?
The original idea for ZoukOut was simple: to bring the spirit of Zouk outdoors and to an even greater audience. We had already successfully run the club for nine years by that time. As a proud local brand, we were always on the lookout for fresh ideas and new challenges.

A dance festival like ZoukOut was a natural progression for us, where we would be able to embrace the many genres of music that Zouk has championed over the years. We felt Singapore was finally ready for a dance event of that scale. It was also a great opportunity to grow the Zouk brand and show our capabilities.

The quintessence of ZoukOut hasn't changed, but the festival has definitely grown by leaps and bounds from the first one held in 2000. In terms of scale, level of production, quality and variety of artists and overall logistical planning, we have improved with each growing year, learning from the previous year's lessons. Over time, the event has also become a party for the whole region, adding a truly cosmopolitan feel instead of just belonging to the domestic market.

We went from 9,000 people in our first year to 18,000 people last year, not to mention more artists and activities all round.
We really do strive to make each ZoukOut event better than the last to keep giving people a reason to come back and 2006 is no different. It feels like it will be our best one yet.

Given the growth, has there ever been any talk of expanding the festival to longer than just one night. Like maybe an entire weekend?

We did this in 2003, post SARS outbreak, and with the support of the Singapore Tourism Board to really show that Singapore was ready to party once again. However the event showed that people still chose one night over the other and the general feedback was that most preferred to keep all the magic in one night. Who are we to argue with the party revelers?

There's a selection of bands and electronic artists like DJs and producers. How important is that balance to the festival?
It's very important as ZoukOut's lineup is a definitive reflection of Zouk the club's musical choices. And it's with this variety that you can honestly get the full festival feel and draw a wider audience.

Have you begun attracting more and more people from around the world to the festival? I used to live in Taiwan and it strikes me that you'd get a lot of ex-pats from around Asia hitting this one.
Yes. Since 2003, we've made efforts to attract party people from around the region as it's the only way ZoukOut can grow, considering Singapore's comparatively small population.

The fact remains, it's the most notable outdoor event with a stellar lineup of its kind in South East Asia, so it's bound to get ALL party aficionados excited. From a practical point of view, you would usually have to pay so much more to see all these names in one night and I believe everyone, including ex-pats, see the value. People from as far and wide as Europe and America, have told us that they try and plan their vacations around ZoukOut, making it part of their itinerary when they visit Asia.

The party's location is right on the beach, which strikes me as being both beautiful, but also something you'd have to co-ordinate with authorities for health and safety reasons? Do you work very closely with government and tourist authorities to make the event a success?
Yes we do, we work hand in hand with all the various authorities as well as the Singapore Tourism board to ensure the event complies with all the safety concerns that a large-scale event requires.

This means spending a lot of time and thought on planning as well as a considerable amount of money on adequate security, crowd control, metal detectors, patrol boats and other safety measures etc. It's imperative that we keep delivering a quality world-class event that is worthy of drawing locals and tourists alike.

I notice the guidebook says there's strictly no swimming.
We put up a mesh perimeter fence to prevent people from swimming, as well as have security in patrol boats. Like I mentioned above, it's imperative that we deliver a quality world class event. At the same time, we strive to do this without ever compromising the security and safety for all our customers. Therefore, potentially dangerous activities such as swimming in the open sea, while sounding really fun, will definitely be a no-no.

As Singapore has such strict laws with respect to drugs, including capital punishment, do you find that the electronic scene there has developed differently than other parts of the world? So much is made about the link between drugs and the dance scene, but is it really more about the music in Singapore?
Yes, that's a fair statement. The difference in playing at Zouk and at other clubs around the world is something the international DJs who play here will attest to. Many of them like it because it truly tests their skills and when the crowd goes crazy, they know it's because of their music and not other influences.

What is RESFEST 10? Is there a film festival taking place, also?
RESFEST is an international travelling festival for cutting edge motion graphics and film, originally from the U.S. The team who put on RESFEST annually in Singapore are doing a special 75 minute screening, especially for ZoukOut, of their most celebrated works at the Main Arena before the music kicks off for the night.

ZoukOut is also hosting fringe events, including costumed buskers, dancers and carnival rides, food stalls, flea markets, live graffiti, mandala art, chill-out areas, massage and holistic tents. Is it important for the festival to draw the connections between all these subcultures under one umbrella?
We do feel these subcultures are related and help give ZoukOut a complete festival experience. Also being an event for thousands and for 12 nonstop hours we need to have other means of entertainment to keep our audience engaged.
There is a definite running thread in everything we offer and showcase at ZoukOut.

Why should people check out ZoukOut? Or the Zouk club and even Singapore for that matter?
ZoukOut is 12 hours of non stop fun, featuring some of the best DJs in the world on an idyllic tropical beach full of like minded people from Singapore and all over the region having the time of their life, what's not to like? 
Zouk is a 15-year-old clubbing institution that is still at the forefront of electronic music and continuously voted as one of the best clubs in the world by the industry and media alike.  Singapore is the one place where you can find and enjoy both ZoukOut and Zouk in one fell swoop. So, what are you waiting for? Don't get left out!

Words by Yuri Wuensch