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July 30, 2009

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Zeal pulses with hip-hop energy

THERE were the obligatory pole dancers, dicing and dance-floor grind when the latest addition to Shanghai's growing rank of hip-hop clubs opened its doors on Friday.

Zeal Club on Jiaozhou Road, on the third floor in a newly converted games hall, is steered by an old hand in the business, Red Lion Media's Chief Executive Inusa Dawuda.

Dawuda and his Red Lion production team have worked for a number of nightclubs around town including Sin, Paramount and Bling.

With large expanses of couches and tables, the new bar is looking to make sure it caters for the big spenders wanting to buy a bottle and party with their entourage.

But unlike many clubs in Shanghai, Zeal is at least paying heed to its hip-hop theme and hasn't let the tables encroach on a decent-sized dance floor.

"The club is a business so we want to cater for the spenders with tables, but we also want people to enjoy the dance floor because that builds the atmosphere," says Dawuda. "One feeds off the other, and we want to make sure that we also cater for those who want to come, have a dance and a drink and maybe not get a table."

Choosing a fairly broad bit of territory for the club to build its brand on, Dawuda says Zeal wants to be somewhere between M1NT and the Shelter, but has no aspirations to be an underground hip-hop venue.

"Commercial hip-hop isn't something negative. While there are some fantastic underground-style hip-hop clubs around, we will have a different concept and business plan," he says.

Reeling off the usual luminaries, Dawuda says club-goers can look forward to hearing its array of local and guest DJs mixing songs from artists such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest and Lupe Fiasco among others.

"You won't hear any Britney Spears or Sarah Connor in our club," he says.

Zeal's local DJs include the 1200 Ctrl Crew and top-ranking Australian DJ Stanley. The first round of visiting DJs will kick off next month with Rocky Rock, the official DJ for The Black Eyed Peas.

"Music is always one of the most important things we will pay attention to here and we want to deliver good hip-hop music in Shanghai," he says.

There is no sign of the old games hall when it comes to the look of the club with slick rust-colored couches lining the walls with premium seats facing the pole dancers and a fashion catwalk.

Every table has a view of the DJ booth, and the club can cater for a crowd of 400 to 500 people.

Zeal is rolling out the usual weekly lineup of events to attract the punters. Monday nights are buy-one-get-one-free Caiprinihra, while the men get a treat on "Sensual Tuesdays" with sexy dancers, a lingerie show and models serving drinks.

On Wednesdays it is the ladies' turn with male models serving drinks and discounts on beverages for women.

Thursdays are Turbo Turntableism with the 1200 Ctrl Crew scratching and MC Champion on the mike and a dance show.

On the weekends there will be a regular program of visiting DJs and Sundays will see a more chilled-out night with a rehab theme featuring masseuses and healthy cocktails.


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