PLACES: Dragon-i

A Musical Explosion in Dragon-i

Places

This is where the future of audio is being shaped right now - places that are full of music and great sound. It’s where people who love to innovate and experiment are drawn. Where they treat themselves and others to phenomenal audio experiences. “Places” invites you to take a look behind the scenes at these “places to be” in audio, from remarkable music clubs, to legendary recording studios and even art and audio conventions.

The club is one of the hottest spots in Hong Kong. Not just because of the international stars, but also because of its perfect sound. We went to check it out.

  • Author: Simon E. Fuchs
  • Photos: Dragon-i
  • Video: Dragon-i

The dragon hovers over the city with its scaly black skin and spitting fire. Were you to imagine the Dragon-i club in Hong Kong as a mythical creature, it would be the rarest of beings. An escalator leads up into the club located in the hip party district on Wyndham Street. The club's small red logo is almost hidden on a black-paneled wall. Still, it is impossible to miss the club: Two large torches flank the entrance.

A Visit to Dragon-i Is an “Ultimate Sound Experience”

Dragon-i is one of the hottest addresses in Hong Kong nightlife. The city's beautiful and rich elite party here side-by-side with models, musicians and international stars. The club offers this select clientele the best possible audio quality and a line-up of internationally known DJs. Club owner Gilbert Yeung knows what's important: He used to stand behind the turntables himself. “It is very important that people can party in a great environment with perfectly balanced music,” Yeung says. Every day, just before 6 p.m., he has a technician check the sound system to make sure the audio in Dragon-i is perfect. “This sound helps people realize that we offer quality. It helps them enjoy the party all the more,” Yeung says.

In the evening, it is no longer apparent that the club is also a restaurant during the day. In the early evening, the ten-plus speakers recessed in the ceiling of the main room pulsate at low volume as the DJ gets ready. The only fires burning are the torches at the entrance. Only the "reserved" signs on every table, each set with an ice bucket and four glasses, indicate that many guests are expected. Red lamps hang above the tables, the decoration a mixture of Japanese, Chinese and European influences. Although the club is one of Hong Kong nightlife's most important destinations, it's small. Two bars, two rooms and a single terrace. The dance floor is of a size more commonly found in European bars rather than in clubs. The fact that Hong Kong has some of the highest rents in the world is readily apparent.

This Is How Clubs of the Future May Look: Perfect Sound Paired with Excellent Service

Luckily, as the son of entertainment tycoon Albert Yeung Sau-Shing, Gilbert Yeung has the right contacts to transform the public gallery in front of the club into a terrace in the evenings. That allows the club to double its size at night. Many guests enjoy their cocktails outside, particularly in the early evening. The entrance opens directly onto the terrace and it is a place where people mingle and greet friends before going inside. The neighbors don't seem bothered by the loud music in the night. The windows of the surrounding high-rises are dark; a sign on the wall of a neighboring building reads "Medical Center." Laughter and bits of conversation float up from the street. The club is located on the second floor of an office building. Many of the bars on Wyndham Street have their doors and windows wide open and the parties spill out onto the sidewalk. Patio heaters on the covered, Dragon-i terrace ensure comfortable temperatures even in the winter. Sofas, bistro tables and the coat-check have all been moved outside. The floor is of dark hardwood. Speakers recessed into the ceiling bring the club's sound outside.

Novel Ways of Listening: The Newest Technology Ensures Clear and Powerful Sound

A half hour after midnight, the DJ has company, with the first guests dancing in front of his console. Though there are only a few at first, it soon becomes impossible to pass through. The DJ greets one of the dancers and hands her a microphone and she climbs onto a round riser next to the dance floor. When she’s not dancing, she's urging the others on: “C’mon, let’s dance! For the ladies!”

The sound is clear and strong, which is hardly surprising: In addition to the daily sound check, the entire system is given a thorough check four times per year. The white-painted speakers are half-recessed into the ceiling: Because the room is a restaurant during the day, the club wanted to avoid having huge, black speakers visible on the ceiling. Every detail is considered. The lighting is also carefully matched to the sound, with a controller working the lights throughout the entire evening.

The spotlight meanders across the dancing crowd, the women with long hair and short dresses, the men in stylish leather jackets and mussed hair. English is the preferred language here, with Chinese heard only rarely. Football star Ronaldo, singer Robin Thicke, basketball great Michael Jordan, rapper Pharrell Williams, media-mogul Russell Simmons, singer Rihanna, model Naomi Campbell and actor Hugh Grant: All of them have been here. “People who dance here belong to the Hong Kong elite. You're either rich, famous or beautiful," says Sandeep Talwani. He works at an international company in Hong Kong and he of course wears a suit in the club. He values the comfortable atmosphere in Dragon-i, even if the drinks are a bit expensive.

Luciano, Avicii, Chris Brown and Snoop Dogg Have All Been Here

The club has a different program almost every evening: Mondays are “HungryMonday,” with models invited to eat and drink for free. German model Katerina Gottesleben calls Dragon-i a "millionaire's club." On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, there is champagne from 5 to 7 p.m. along with Japanese cuisine. Later in the evening, either the three resident DJs take to the console or international guests come for a show. During Art Basel, Paris Hilton was booked into the club. But Luciano, Avicii and Chris Brown have likewise all been here, as have the old masters like DJ Premier, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Snoop Dogg. At one in the morning, champagne bottles spraying sparks are carried through the crowd. “That’s around 50,000 Hong Kong dollars,” says manager Talwani. Money doesn’t seem to play much of a role here.

The Club Is an Example of Living Innovation and a “Work of Art Design”

One of Dragon-i's resident DJs, Emmanuel Diaz, hands off the console to his French colleague, who also spins in Dragon-i as a resident DJ. Not long later, Diaz can be found leaning against a bistro table with his drink on the terrace. He is constantly waving to acquaintances, shaking hands and kissing cheeks. “There are not many clubs as cool as Dragon-i,” he says. And he’s not just saying it because he spins here. He smiles and takes another sip. The club takes music very seriously, both the selection and the quality. "We are expected to know all of the newest hits," he says. He plays a lot of house, but also hip-hop and classics, he says. The only thing he doesn't often play is extremely unconventional songs: The music is supposed to appeal to as many people as possible. The sound as such is extremely warm and full, he says, adding that the DJs, too, can tell that the sound system is checked every day.

Diaz looks down at the street in front of the club: “It looked completely different a few years ago,” he says. Gilbert Yeung, he says, was one of the first entrepreneurs in Hong Kong to enrich the city’s nightlife with clubs like Dragon-i. The street used to be home to several antique shops, but more and more bars, restaurants and clubs began moving into the area. Owner Gilbert Yeung is going to continue upgrading the club in the future. The terrace sound system will soon be renewed, he says.

At the neighboring table on the terrace, the last pieces of chocolate cake are being consumed. Somebody had a birthday and received a cake, which is another one of the place's specialties. As difficult as it is to imagine: During the day, the club transforms into a restaurant. The dim sum is an insider tip here in Hong Kong. Every day but Sunday, it is available in an all-you-can-eat deal for €26. The small dumplings can be filled with spinach, chicken or pork and are served in small wooden dishes. Diners can also try a rotating soup-of-the-day or order a sushi bento box. The evening menu includes specialties like Kobe beef, foie gras and prawns.

Champagne Bottles Are Carried Through the Club at Ever-Briefer Intervals

At 3:30 a.m., sound is pumping through the club. On the dance floor, the sound waves pulsate through every gram of fat one didn't even know was there. You can feel the sound in your chest, but it doesn't hurt your ears. The daily adjustments and checks are worth it. The champagne bottles are carried through the club at ever-briefer intervals.

The party normally lasts until four in the morning, at which time those still wanting to party move on to clubs like Drop. On some evenings, though, Dragon-i owner Gilbert Yeung takes to the console even after 4 a.m. He hasn't totally forgotten his former life as a DJ. The music aficionado’s fire still burns within.

Address: UG/F The Centrium, 60 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Music: Electro, house, hip hop, RnB, charts
Entrance Fee: 200 HKD (around €23)
Dress code: Classy, men can only wear T-shirts in combination with a stylish jacket, no flip-flops
Opening hours: Lunch: Monday to Friday noon to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 3:30 p.m.; Dinner: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Club: 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., except Sundays. Tuesday closed.
Homepage: http://www.dragon-i.com.hk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/dragonihongkong/