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Malaysia Revelation

Malaysia will host a huge dance festival in its capital city in August, an event that signals the beginnings of a Southeast Asian neo-club revolution.

Dance music is inexorably linked to the process of globalisation, and club culture has emerged in some form or other in almost every developing and developed nation in the world.

The Southeast Asian country of Malaysia, a nation just above Singapore and below Thailand, is one such previously unlikely country to have recently developed its own kicking club scene.

In March 2004, the Singapore-based Zouk superclub opened a sister venue in Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia's capital - and on 20th August of this year, the city will witness its third annual Revelation electronic music festival.

The massive open-air event has two arenas of top international DJ talent and runs from 5pm to 5am.

Organised by Pervert Designs, a strategic events management consultancy firm, the growing popularity of Revelation reveals not just a burgeoning dance scene, but an emerging and highly developed dance music industry.

In just a few years, Malaysia's underground club scene has become one of the most prolific in Asia - in 2003 over 8000 revellers turned up to Revelation - this year its organisers estimate that over 15,000 will attend.

But as Pervert Design's Kenneth Chan explains, it hasn't all been plain sailing for Malaysia's embryonic dance scene:

Malaysia's Revelation Festival
"Dance music made its breakthrough in this country around 1997," he says.

"But at that time Kuala Lumpur's (KL) city council had just imposed a 1am curfew on nightclubs and bars.

"Disheartened clubbers and expatriates living in Kuala Lumpur had to organise parties in off-the-wall locations like unused bungalows and rented penthouse suites instead of in clubs."

Underground

At first the dance scene started in Malaysia, like everywhere else in the world, as a predominantly underground movement.

House music was king, except for a few key drum & bass parties.

But as word got around the locals that there was an exciting new music scene happening, the parties got bigger.

As Kenneth Chan explain: "Parties were now being held in film studios, halls, even in an ex-prison.

"It was a really exciting time, boundaries were being broken, and there were a lot of happy people."

Soon bands of clubbers and DJs had joined forces with entrepreneurial promoters in a bid to create more professional and larger parties.

Malaysia's Revelation Festival
Big name DJs were one thing that the locals didn't have, so foreign jocks started to get booked.

"Some of the earliest foreign DJs to come and play here arrived in 1998 and 1999," says Kenneth.

"Guys like Matthew Robertson, Jon Carter, Josh Wink and Derrick May started coming, and big professional raves started happening on a regular basis - the scene really blew up.

"There were some really wild jungle parties - at one of them Sven Vath played a 14-hour set!"

Overground

However, like in the UK, spiralling costs and pressure from the authorities forced the underground dance scene of Malaysia overground, into the clubs.
Electronic dance music became a business, and the music of choice for lots of young people in Malaysia.

"Big dance clubs became all the rage and famous foreign guest DJs were playing weekly," says Kenneth.

"The scene became very big, very soon, and there is now a strong core of clubbers into different genres - house, techno, drum & bass, even electro is popular here now," he says.

As the dance scene grew in Malaysia, different music genres grew in popularity too.

For a long time, progressive house held court.

Malaysia's Revelation Festival
"Techno used to be really big, but now the scene doesn't really have one dominating genre anymore," says Kenneth.

"For the upcoming Revelation festival we're featuring a lot of trance DJs because a lot of clubs here seem to steer away from trance.

"The general perception is that it's too cheesy, but we know that's not entirely the case - there are a lot of really good trance DJs out there, and over here trance fans are starved for choice.

Long Term Growth?

The dance scene in Malaysia evolved in less than five years from underground raves and illegal parties into superclubs and trance festivals, but like the Tiger economy boom of the late 90s in Southeast Asia, will there be a bust?

"Although the general population of Malaysia does not know much about dance music there's a really passionate core of dedicated clubbers here," says Chan.

"Most of the scene is centred in KL with small pockets growing in other parts of the country in Penang and Melaka.

"Also, in almost every city and town there are these hardcore techno clubs that mainly Chinese-Malays go to called 'feng-tau' clubs or head-shaking clubs.

"They play really hard trance and hard house, sometimes till 11am, and are completely illegal," adds Kenneth.

One thing that may influence the growth of Malaysia's club scene is its strict drug laws.

As the club scene has grown, so too has the number of busts by the police.

Kenneth says: "The last two year's have seen the authorities cracking the whip harder and more frequently.

Malaysia's Revelation Festival
"They are very well clued-up with what's happening in the clubs.

"Of course, you can't have the yin without the yang, and as this scene has got bigger, so too has its negative influences," he says.

Positive Clubbing

For promoters in Malaysia it has meant a continuing battle to keep the scene alive, by promoting the positive aspects of clubbing, rather than glamourising drug culture as Britain's acid house promoters did in the early 1990s.

At the Revelation event in 2004, there was an Innovation Lounge featuring works by some of Kuala Lumpur's top creative talents in photography, art, design, multimedia and film.

There was a Recharge Spa that offered back, neck, and head massages, hand reflexology by trained masseurs, and flavoured teas.

There was even a café operated by Starbucks.

This year's Revelation event is also about promoting the artistic sides of club culture.

"I am very optimistic that Malaysia will soon have the most developed scene in Asia," says Chan.

"Our DJs are now becoming producers.

"They're releasing tracks on foreign and local labels, and are also getting more gigs outside of Malaysia.

"Most of the world's top DJs have played here, the country has amazingly wonderful parties and raves, and it has an interesting history of club culture.

"I don't foresee it stopping at all," he added.

Revelation

Revelation takes place at the Admiral Marina in Port Dickson - an open-air lot that's part of a pontoon overlooking a beach and the yachts of the marina.

There will be an outdoor spa, and free ferris wheel rides.

There will be two arenas - the R3CHARGER main stage features Markus Schulz, Johan Gielen, Scot Project, Mijk Van Dijk, as well as Malaysia's Bass Agents.

The second stage feature Dirty Vegas from the UK, Goldfish from Malaysia, The Micronauts from France, and Indonesia's Yansi.

DJmag will be covering the Revelation event for an article to be published in a forthcoming issue.

For more info and tickets check www.rechargeroom.com/revelation/welcome.asp