Jun 06

Square Rooms

Speaker: Clement Chio

Good evening Club President, District Officers, Fellow Toastmasters & Guests.

I rushed through projects 2 to 4 at various other clubs because I want to reserve this speech for you guys, at my home club.
Because today, I’m going to talk about something I was passionate about, something close to my heart, something all of you may have heard of before, something that you may even have had experienced and had loads of fun in – Mambo Jambo,

Yes, you heard it right. Mambo Jambo in Zouk Club on Wednesday nights.
The person standing before you, is one of the crazy regulars that used to patronize Zouk Wednesday after Weds, without fail, every week, as my routine mid-week salvation.

So, for the uninitiated, Zouk is perhaps the most famous nightclub in Singapore.
In fact, recently, it was voted as the 5th BEST club in the WORLD.
And why was Zouk so famous?
Other than constantly having an impressive lineup of international DJs to spin at the decks, Zouk was also known for the iconic Wednesday night dance theme – Mambo Jambo.

You might ask, what is Mambo Jambo?
Many people have misunderstood Mambo Jambo nights as retro nights.
However, Mambo Jambo simply means the unorthodox mix of music on the dance floors.
Back 20 years ago, when Mambo first started, the DJs started playing 70s and 80s pop hits.
While iconic Retro songs by Bananarama & Rick Astley stayed within the Wednesday nights playlist, in the years that followed, 90s songs by Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys & even Bon Jovi were added to the repertoire. In recent times, a Mambo playlist on Wednesday will also include songs by Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and, of course, Psy and his Gangnam Style.

But the real draw of Mambo Jambo wasn’t the songs.
It was the unique dance moves that catered specifically to each and every song. A set of dance moves which EVERYONE knows. May it be the regulars leading on the podiums, or the rest of the dance floor following the lead, it was a night of synchronised dancing.

It was unpretentious, it was sometimes hilarious, more importantly, it was fun.

Mambo was also known as the sign language dance. For there is a hand action for every word in the song lyrics.
For example this means heart, or love.
This means me, this means you
This means tell, or call
This means 1 or alone
This means home.

Technically, I can also have Mambo moves to this entire speech that I’m doing.
But I shan’t.

Well, it might seem silly now that I’m doing in front of you alone, but for those of you who have been to a real Mambo night before, it’s really inspiring to see everyone on the dance floor knowing the moves to the more iconic songs.
To know that at this very moment, you need to turn to the person beside you to do a Hi-5.
To know when to shout chants like “1, 2, 3, 4!” with the rest of the crowd.
It’s silly, it’s frivolous, but you know everyone was having fun together.

Over the years at Mambo, I have made many friends there.
I’ve spent my happiest times there, experienced heartbreaks, and of course, had my fair share of embarrassing moments.

On a larger scale, over the past 2 decades, Mambo Jambo has evolved to a unique Singaporean culture.
That’s right. This dance was born, evolved and popularized in Singapore, and no other country can boast they own it.

Mambo has been featured in travel guides as a unique nightlife experience for visitors to Singapore, and even incorporated in Dance festivals at the Esplanade.
Most recently, it was featured at Singapore Day 2012 in New York City.


But sadly, just as dynasties rise and falls, cultures can also blossom & wither.

As popular clubbing music gradually shifts from insane bubbly tunes to the current more sensual mix of hip-hop & electronic music,
As former Mambo regulars & supporters settle down and exit the clubbing scene,
Crowds on Wednesday nights started to dwindle.

And on July 24 last year, Zouk decide to give up on Mambo Jambo, and shifted it from the bigger main room, to the smaller side dance room called Phuture.

As expected, the shift only catalyzed Mambo’s demise.
And finally, on the last Wednesday night of OCtober 2012, Mambo Jambo’s 20 year weekly ritual, came to an end.

At first it was emotional, then reality set in – that it was time for all of us to move on.

Fortunately, Zouk promised to bring back Mambo Jambo once in a while.
“On the eve of public holidays,” they said.
But not EVERY public holiday, only selected ones.

That, turned out to be a very good call.

On the eve of Labour Day this year, just slightly more than a month ago, to much anticipation, Mambo Jambo fans reunited in Zouk once more.

The dance floor was packed once again. It was full of nostalgia.
And EVERYONE, remembered their moves.
Everyone, from the main podium, to the corners of the staircases was grooving their hands like back in the heydays of Mambo’s Prime.

And this very rare Mambo session ended with Kit Chan’s “Home” as the final song, and was so emotional for so many reasons:
– that Mambo is finally back home in the Zouk main room
– that this so Singaporean culture still burns so strongly
– that it’s going to be a looooong time till the next holiday eve Mambo

But at deep in our hearts, we know, where we were standing there and then
This is home, surely
As my senses tell me
This is where I won’t be alone
For this is where we know we’re home

Leave some love below! <3