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London nights take in Hindi Electronica, Latin House or Japanese Bible

November 13, 2003

LONDON — While music has long been the top attraction on the London night scene, the cosmopolitan clubber's paradise now encompasses an ever more diverse range of sounds, ranging all the way from "London zok" to "Latin house".

Forget the old club classics such as hip-hop, techno or garage.

The sprouting of "DJ bars" across the city, notably in Shoreditch and Hoxton -- known to some as "Shoho" in a reference to Soho, the emblematic tourist area now on the relative decline -- have given basic clubbing music a myriad of foreign musical accents born from London's myriad communities.

The result? The huge Indo-Pakistani community has spawned "Hindi electronica", house has developed into "Latin house" and East Asian influences have brought forth a sound known as "Japanese bible".

As to "London zok", it is an Anglo-Saxon spin-off from the French Caribbean "zouk" sound.

"London has an edge over Paris when it comes to music variety," said David Swindells, a journalist at Time Out, London's leading weekly entertainment magazine.

Around 50 DJs were now firmly established in "Shoho", just to the northeast of central London, areas which were totally dead at night only a few years back, Swindells noted.

"Some clubs such as Plastic People have a vibe we don't have" in France, admitted Serge Nicolas, a former DJ at the Paris club, Pulp, who now spins at the Paradise Massage at the Rex.

Like the Ministry of Sound, a vast and hugely influential "superclub" which opened 12 years ago just south of the River Thames, many London clubs now create their own sound and have their own record labels.

Top rivals to Ministry nowadays are the Latin-inspired Pacha and Fabric, a huge five-storey venue with three "dance floors" operating in the heart of London.

However, even though they still pack in thousands of clubbers every weekend, these huge brand-name venues have suffered a relative decline in both popularity and kudos in recent years.

And while London's traditional nightlife hub of the West End remains a popular destination, many night owls now trek out to more distant places, such as in the bustling southwest London suburb of Brixton.

Tribalism is rife, with the jet-setters happier at more traditional central London venues including Brown's or Chinawhite, while students take root in Camden, just north of the centre of London, and the gay community mainly sticks to bars and clubs packed into a section of Soho.

Excess and extravagance are the keys to success, both for the sound --the Ministry of Sound claims its speakers are set at a mere 45 percent of their potential -- and the decor.

In Brixton clubbers with a taste for sacrilege can take a night out at Mass, formerly Saint Matthew's church, while avid swimmers can take their togs along and jump in at the Aquarium, the only club in London equipped with a swimming pool and a jacuzzi alongside its two dance floors.

The latest entrants on the nightlife scene are bars where the more sedate fun-seeker can listen to DJs or live acts while feasting on high-quality dishes, described by Swindells as "global street food". –Sapa-AFP

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