“My son’s fail grade should have shown up in red ink. Holistic education reform has gone too far!”
“This place is very ang moh. You know what ang moh means, right?”
“Do you have a girlfriend? Is she Singaporean?”
After being treated to a rapid-fire of mildly inappropriate questions by an unfiltered auntie and her friends, my spirits are at an all-time high.
It’s a little past 11 PM when I squeeze my way to the front of the dance floor. To my left, a dude rocking a bucket hat and very loose pants appears to be scaring the sunburnt 60-year-old expat behind him with his dance moves. To my right, a friend is in tortoiseshell sunglasses and Hello Kitty themed booty shorts, rapidly jabbing his hands downward. In front, the DJ is mixing the horn line from “Brick House” by the Commodores with a trap beat—it actually sounds good.
No, this isn’t some government-sponsored multigenerational engagement event gone awry. This is Kampong Boogie’s “Return to Golden Mile”.
Kampong Boogie breaks the mould. As advertised, it’s a “no frills car park discotheque”. With a makeshift bar the size of a coffee table, a mixing board, speaker and some coloured lights, Kampong Boogie puts on laid back open-air parties that get busy by 9 PM and typically end before 1 AM.
After bouncing around different venues around the city including Tuff Club and Miss Chinatown for the last six months, Kampong Boogie has returned to its roots on the 5th floor of Golden Mile Tower.
But perhaps that is what I should’ve expected. There’s a notion among expats/foreigners that Singapore’s cleanliness and safety make life on the island boring and predictable, so getting drunk on a grimy rooftop is a way to remind us of the ‘real world’ we’ve left behind.
However, when I get to the party at 8:45 PM, I am pleasantly surprised to see that the crowd is far more diverse than I expected.
In one corner, Singaporean women approaching auntie-age wearing a beret and leather jacket get down alongside expats dressed in what could have been hiking attire. In another, a young Singaporean guy lays down a mat and starts tap dancing on it, the clicks audible over the speakers.
A dancing train forms that, at its peak, picks up literally everyone on the dance floor.
The music isn’t predictable “bangers” that you might hear at Clarke Quay, nor droning house music. Instead, it sounds like Earth, Wind & Fire was mixed with a hip-hop sample.
The DJ is clearly having a good time, making difficult transitions that he might not have had the liberty to do if he were in a club.
I see a collection of misfits chatting with each other and dancing like they just don’t care. And frankly, it makes me want to do the same.
I quickly realise that Kampong Boogie isn’t an expat-only escape from oversanitised Singapore. The low tech concrete dance floor, the drinks in paper cups, and conspicuous lack of furniture or decorations are not meant to be taken as anything special. If anything, they symbolise that Kampong Boogie is a party without expectations.
Here, no one is expected to dress a certain way, dance a certain way, or even be within a certain age range. It’s a party where anyone can throw their inhibitions to the wayside and relax without judgement.
Of the whole group, Christie, a self-proclaimed “auntie”, immediately takes an interest in me.
“I’m old enough to be your mom, you know?” she says.
But this doesn’t stop her from bantering with me as though she were the same age.
Eventually, the conversation turns to the somewhat expected question: “What’s it like to be an ang moh in Singapore?” Christie is also excited to know if I’ve heard the term ‘gwei lo’ before.
Well, Christie, I grew up around a lot of Cantonese speakers, so I do know what ‘gwei lo’ means.
Regardless, I find it hilarious that someone twice my age is asking me what kinds of racial slurs I know—and on a dancefloor, no less. But I don’t blame her; she probably doesn’t get the chance to be immature too often.
At Kampong Boogie, no one takes anything too seriously.
After all, a few hours ago, I came to Kampong Boogie expecting to get drunk. Now, I’m going home knowing how to say ‘elite’ in Malay (atas), where the best xiao long bao hawker stall is (Chinatown), and that, like a fine wine, Singaporean party goers only get better with age.