Mambo Night

I started the day with a steaming bowl of bak kut teh, which literally translates to “meat bone tea.”  This simple Chinese soup dish consists of meaty pork ribs simmered for hours in a rich broth of herbs and spices, including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, and garlic.

The majority of the day I spent lounging around nickeldime, helping out in the kitchen with snacks and small plates.  The main event of the day was really the night game— it was Wednesday night and in Singapore, that means Mambo Night!

Mambo Jambo, more commonly known as Mambo Night, is quite the famous  institution in Singapore.  I heard rumors of this legendary themed clubbing night long before I arrived in Singapore, and I looked forward to witnessing it almost as much I looked forward to each and every meal there.  Mambo Night is held every Wednesday at Zouk, which is one of the oldest and most popular nightclubs in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.  Yes, this phenomenon transcends international boundaries.

Zouk is comprised of three huge interconnected clubs occupying former warehouses on the Singapore River.  Each of the clubs boast its own ambiance and music — the main club Zouk has a large dance floor with crazy sounds and lighting and plays trance and “retro” house.  This club has been around since 1991 and its staying power is rooted in the overwhelming popularity of its Mambo Night.

Mambo Night originated from the club’s goal to introduce house music to Singapore.  In order to increase the appeal factor of house music, Zouk blended pop hits from the 70s and 80s to create a sort of “retro house” genre.  The idea took off and Mambo Nights quickly became solidified in night clubbing history.  Club goers started coordinating dance moves (and by that, I mean hand motions) that were performed in sync with the lyrics of particular songs.  Learning the choreographed dances for every single song played at Mambo Night is basically a rite of passage amongst young Singaporean clubbers.  Mambo dancers can range in age from 16-40.   It was absolutely intense to see the entire club sing and dance/arm-motion together, as if the macarena had turned into a competitive sport.

While it may seem a silly thing, I actually felt sillier standing in the midst the huge coordinated crowd and being unable to follow along.  After playing tourist rather than participant at Zouk’s Mambo Night, we opted for a change of scenery.  We left Mambo Night and headed towards Clarke Quay to indulge in another epic Asian phenomenon: Karaoke.

Asian Karaoke is very different from the open-mic-at- pubs type of  fare you see in America.  While it is still possible to make a total fool of yourself  in the private karaoke rooms, many karaoke goers in Asia are very serious about the craft.  This means they do not actually REQUIRE alcohol before they start singing.  Like memorizing all the Mambo dance moves, somehow every Singaporean I met had also memorized the lyrics of every song in those books, no matter the language.  There were also hand instruments to play with like tambourines and maracas to add a little more pizazz to the performance.

The accompanying music videos that play with each song selection are entertaining enough on their own.  Imagine rapping “Gangster’s Paradise” to the background video of a Chinese orchestra.

I promised not to post the epic video of Javier’s “Purple Rain” rendition… but I did not say anything about photos!

Return to main menu: “Singapore Lah!”

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