Nightclubs and nepotism in Singapore

Zouk nightclub. Photo by Moyan Brenn on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/aigle_dore/

Zouk nightclub. Photo by Moyan Brenn on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/aigle_dore/

Mish Khan reports on when a PM’s son crashes the party.

In summer last year I went on exchange to Singapore. No stranger to nightlife, I hyped myself for what was supposed to be the best club in Asia and one of the best in the world – Zouk.

Though I hardly describe myself a party animal, any beast of the night lurking in Singapore’s club scene had clearly been tamed into a strange, sanitised creature by the same force that seems to envelope the entire nation. From PG 13-esque drinks, embarrassingly guarded dancing and DJ sets described as “Ghetto” but delivering Taylor Swift, Zouk felt lame.

A year on, Zouk has gotten even lamer, going from sick beats to sick nepotism as it faces massive backlash for inviting the Malaysian Prime Minister’s son to spin records over the internationally popular DJ Fadi.

The famous trance DJ was performing in the early hours of 6 March, when he was asked to wind up his set and hand the turntables over to VIP guest Mr Norashman Najib, who was not on the scheduled performers’ list.

Fadi is recorded as saying, “It seems that Zouk wants someone else to play. Not only because of that, because apparently he’s the son of a prime minister.

“Thank you so much – enjoy my last track, I’ll see you somewhere in the future. Not in Zouk anymore, because I won’t play in Zouk any f***ing more. They’ve insulted me, but I love you guys.”

Zouk has denied the incident, stating the handover occurred after the contracted set-times. Meanwhile, the club’s Facebook page has been flooded with furious comments, including “I didn’t come here for an 1MDBeat” – a reference to the financial scandal plaguing PM Najib Razak.

There have also been threats of a boycott while others questioned why Norashman was at Zouk to begin with, given that in Malaysia nightclubs are deemed forbidden to the ordinary Muslim public.

Some even speculated that the incident was tied to Zouk’s recent purchase by Malaysian conglomerate Genting, a state-linked firm accused of criminal conduct by Swiss prosecutors investigating 1MDB for funds misappropriation.

Whether the scandal runs this deep or was simply an anomalous case of poor management, the recent furore makes one thing clear: much like how they view their political system, Singaporeans don’t dig the idea of political parties.

Mish Khan is Associate Editor at New Mandala and a third-year Asian studies/law student at the Australian National University. This article is part of her Southeast Asian snapshots series.