pandemic singapore underground techno party night life
DJ booth in the upstairs room at Headquarters. Photo: Robin Vochelet

In Post-Pandemic Singapore, a New Underground Techno Party Scene Rises

In the aftermath of the pandemic, many independent artist collectives have emerged within the city’s formerly limited nightlife.

One night in late April, after about two years of COVID-19 restrictions on nightlife, I went to my first underground techno party since moving to Singapore in 2021. Wei, a fellow queer individual I had met online at the height of the pandemic, told me about this “underground space, like an arts enclave” in Singapore’s Chinatown. As an avid partygoer and patron of the techno music scene, I was sold. All I had to do was fill out a Google Form and e-transfer my payment to get my ticket.


Nestled within 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace, a factory building located atop the eponymous hill that borders Chinatown, the outside of The Glass Hut immediately caught my attention. Walking into a factory building at midnight felt almost illegal. The unique decor added to the bizarre feeling: The open courtyard in front of the Hut’s main entrance was lined with statues of the Buddha, basking in purple lighting. It was otherworldly. 

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

At The Glass Hut. Photo: Robin Vochelet

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

Samiksha “Jalpari” Nair performing at The Glass Hut in April. Photo: Robin Vochelet

The real “other world,” however, was inside. The entire place was splattered in fluorescent paint covering the floor, the art hanging on the wall, and dozens of mannequins scattered across the room. A blend of ethereal house music with a hint of sitar played in the background, mixed by young Indian expatriate Samiksha Nair, known in the scene as Jalpari—a Hindi word meaning water fairy or mermaid.

Nights at The Glass Hut have become representative of a growing underground music movement within the Singapore nightlife scene. Breaking the boundaries of commercial electronic music, VIP tables, bottle service, and large over-crowded clubs, these collectives aim to create more inclusive spaces, focused on the intersection of art as a community-building project, blending people from all racial, ethnic, sexual, and musical backgrounds.

For the many artists involved in the scene, the timing is no coincidence.  

“In a way, COVID was a reckoning for locals to look inwards and realize what we have,”  Jie Che Wan, one of the organizers at The Glass Hut, told VICE. 


“In a way, COVID was a reckoning for locals to look inwards and realize what we have.”

Reminiscing about that April night when I first saw her perform at The Glass Hut, Nair said: “Being into house and techno music before COVID felt weird.” She argued that this was not because of the music but the lack of culture centered around those genres in Singapore. “Now if you ask local [Singaporeans], they’ll be able to name [artists like] Peggy Gou. That’s a start.”

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

Wall graffiti in the downstairs room at Headquarters. Photo: Robin Vochelet

Nair contrasted the scene today with her own pre-pandemic experience at Headquarters, Singapore’s first nightclub dedicated to techno music, which opened in May 2016. Nair, who had moved to the city earlier that year, recalled: “It was very new to me, much more aggressive than what I was used to, but that’s what drew me in.”

At the time, the club was mainly visited by small crowds of regulars, who Nair said she’d meet almost every weekend. While the place has kept its status as a hub for techno music in a city where the genre has failed to permeate the mainstream clubbing culture, it has also gained widespread popularity over the years, particularly among Singapore’s large expatriate community. 

This sense of a small like-minded community is what Nair prefers about these places.

“[The Glass Hut] is the first accomplished community project I’ve seen in Singapore for the underground scene,” Nair told VICE of her experience working with the Hut. “The effort that went into making the Hut an inclusive space was unprecedented.”

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

Samiksha Nair (aka Jalpari) in September. Photo: Robin Vochelet

The Glass Hut’s venue harbors a tumultuous past, which undeniably adds onto its unique underground identity. The colonial-era Upper Barracks of 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace were repurposed in the late 1950s, at a time when Singapore was facing political and social unrest in the midst of a growing anti-colonial movement, becoming home to a police station. The hill was a strategic location, allowing police forces to oversee the Chinatown area where crime and vice were rampant at the time. With this background in mind, it only makes sense the facility would eventually host an underground party collective decades later.

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

The wall mural designed by The Glass Hut crew in their courtyard at 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace. Photo: Robin Vochelet

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

The iconic Buddha statues line-up the courtyard of The Glass Hut at 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace during daytime. Photo: Robin Vochelet

The brainchild of artist Dione Keh, who soon teamed up with her partner, guitarist Cruise Chen, The Glass Hut grew from a small, container-like room to a bigger factory space within 195 Pearl’s Hill, garnering a team of seven individuals running the collective while working a 9-to-5 job during the day. Started in 2020, the Hut survived COVID-related restrictions by organizing daytime markets, workshops, and even boxing classes.

As measures eased, the pair expanded their team and turned their vision of a shared space for the arts outward, hosting a variety of arts exhibitions, dance performances, and techno-dance parties. 

“Our goal was never to create a party space per se, but more like a space where all the arts get to overlap and exist together,” Keh told VICE. Conveniently, “becom[ing] a party hotspot helped us cover rent,” Wan added. 


Finding venues in Singapore is a considerable challenge, mainly owing to high rental prices as well as licensing for events including music and art performances. The current legislation prevents such events from being held in proper warehouse spaces, which is typically the preferred venue for a rave party. Old factories and repurposed buildings therefore become the next best available solution, as was the case with the Hut.

However, even those band-aid solutions face shortcomings. On Aug. 26, The Glass Hut said in an Instagram post that they have “decided to let go of the 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace space,” following an ultimatum “sprung onto” them “by the building’s management.” While the collective has already announced this doesn’t mean it will disband—rather just go on hiatus while the team looks for a new venue—this incident illustrates the difficulty to create and maintain underground spaces in a city like Singapore.

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

The Glass Hut’s founders, Dione Keh and Cruise Chen. Photo: Robin Vochelet

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

The Glass Hut’s current crew (l-r) back: Natalie Phay, Isaac Chia, Jie Che Wan; front: Dione Keh, Cruise Chen; absent: Melvin Chua, Sandra Tan. Photo: Robin Vochelet

“We wanted to attract crowds that would understand the messiness of the space and the party,” said Wan, reminiscing on previous parties held at the Hut. “In a way, the Hut was allowing for some messiness in a city where everything is so curated.” 

Keh added that the Hut “attracted different crowds thanks to the diversity of the programming and acts, which was a way to broaden [attendees’] horizons too.”

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

Leland Tan in September. Photo: Robin Vochelet

In addition to the parties organized by the Hut during their time at 195 Pearl’s Hill, the group also wanted to expand their reach by allowing their fellow artist friends to rent out the venue to throw their own parties, an idea that built upon Keh and Chen’s notion of a shared artistic community by and for the underground scene. Among the Hut’s main collaborators is Leland Tan, known mononymously in the scene as Leland.

Tan started his music journey while living in Melbourne, Australia, shortly after finishing his undergraduate studies there. The onset of the pandemic and an ever-tightening economic situation undermined Tan’s hope to extend his visa, prompting him to return to Singapore. At a time when nightlife in the Lion City was effectively prohibited, digital platforms became an important tool in facilitating music performances. 

“I would stream [my sets] on Twitch,” he said. “I became very active there, streaming almost every night at that point.”

Tan also appeared in YouTube live streams on Therapy Room, an online project allowing DJs to host live-streamed gigs and open up about their mental wellbeing as artists, a space that Tan described as “necessary during the pandemic.”

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

Leland performing at Headquarters in September. Photo: Robin Vochelet

With the easing of COVID-related restrictions and the slow reopening of nightlife, Tan was approached by staff from The Glass Hut, some of whom he met while in Australia, and started working with them. The Hut became home to Ridiculous Co-Op, a project Tan started with his graphic designer girlfriend, Kelley Lim. 


“[Ridiculous Co-Op] is not a collective… it’s not meant to be commercial or an agency,” Tan said. Instead, he described it as “a space for me, Kelley, and our friends to express ourselves in any form and any manner… more like a pet project.”

The co-op has run two parties to date, which both took place within the space provided by The Glass Hut: the first one featured a set by Cyda from Indonesia, as well as local acts Robo X, and Leland himself. The second party was organized on Aug. 8, the day before the city-state’s National Day. The choice of date was quite a humorous decision, Tan confirmed, and the pair collaborated with artist Kimverlyn Lim to include archival images of 1950s and 1960s Singapore in the visuals that night.

“[We’re] just trying to get our friends to show what we can do with a venue that’s very open and free-spirited, and very supportive of the arts,” Tan said.

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

Sivanesh Pillaiand and his partner Lilian Hautemulle (aka Miss Lil), who run their own music collective Sivilian Affairs, performing at The Projector X: Picturehouse. Photo: Robin Vochelet

This new underground movement has also been an opportunity for some well-established artists to explore more intimate projects. Veteran DJ Sivanesh Pillai, known as Siva, has experienced both sides of the scene since he started spinning around 2006. From his DJ residency at glitzy spots like Rumours Beach Club and Marina Bay Sands’ landmark rooftop bar Cé La Vi, through his role as music director for Kilo and Potato Head, to freelancing as both an artist and a music producer today.


Pillai cited COVID-19 as a catalyst for him to figure himself out and change directions: “[The pandemic] helped me realize that my time at Cé La Vi allowed me to diversify my music range and build that experience, and I realized I wanted a bigger challenge,” he told VICE. 

In tandem with his girlfriend Lilian Hautemulle, an American transplant to the Singapore music scene whom he met at Headquarters in 2018, the pair came up with the idea for their own collective, focusing on intimate gatherings centered around music and community-building.

Thus was born Sivilian Affairs, which has operated several parties since April, with an attendance capped at 100 to 200 people depending on the venue size. For a DJ as experienced with more commercial crowds as Pillai, opting for smaller crowds might seem surprising, but it’s all part of the pair’s idea for their collective. 

“I love pure hard-beat techno and pure house music, but with [Sivilian Affairs] we’re trying to explore the spectrum that ties the two,” Pillai said. “To be able to do stuff like that, we need to surround ourselves with people, artists, and crowds alike, who can share that vision. That’s why we focus on intimate gatherings, and we try to promote younger, local acts.”

Over time, Pillai hopes that the collective can become a regional force driving musical acts across Southeast Asia, an “exchange program” in his words, with acts from all over the region coming to perform in Singapore, and vice versa. However, in order for this vision to come to fruition, the pair will need to settle in a specific venue, which is going to prove troublesome in light of sky-high rent prices and the challenges of procuring licenses.

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

Visuals projected during Tribal Frequencies at Manifest in August. Photo: Robin Vochelet

The momentum feels undeniably exciting. Gone are the days when the same few clubs would dominate the Singaporean nightlife; projects like The Glass Hut, Sivilian Affairs, and Ridiculous Co-Op are creating a much-needed space for alternative artists, musicians, and partygoers to interact and exist together in the same space. With this new scene, bolder and rarer sounds are finally given the representation they deserve in the city’s nightlife.

pandemic singapore underground techno party night life

Crowds dancing during Pillai’s set at The Projector X: Picturehouse. Photo: Robin Vochelet

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