DJ KoFlow brought street culture into Esplanade Concert Hall

DJ KoFlow brought street culture into Esplanade Concert Hall

We wrote about the burgeoning DJ and producer a month or two ago – and we were really excited to see what DJ KoFow had in store for us as he put up his solo show in Esplanade Concert Hall last Friday (30/06).

"Being a DJ here is to tell everyone that you can do it,” he told us about his mighty debut at the Esplanade Concert Hall. Staying true to his word, the DJ did not disappoint as he brought together all the strands of his musical life into one seamless concert, tied together by the compelling storyline of a Singaporean boy with big dreams.

There was no denying that KoFlow was in his element — barring some nervousness at the start of the concert — as he brought the best of street art to the Esplanade Concert Hall, a venue known mostly for high art.

As he took the stage, welcoming cheers were immediately met with the powerful drop of his recently released single, ‘Arab St.’, off his upcoming first release FLOW. He was quickly joined on stage acclaimed percussionist and drummer Mohammed Noor, who laid some thunderous drums on the track — kickstarting the whirlwind of collaborations the DJ had curated for the evening.

From song to song, collaborations never ended as the DJ wrought together multiple instruments, conjuring the kind of opulence suited for the venue, but executed with KoFlow's deft skills.

Jazz pianist Tan Wei Xiang, singer Vanessa Fernandez, rapper ShiGGa Shay and even a string ensemble were invited onstage through the night, as KoFlow showed those gathered one thing: that the role of a DJ goes beyond mixing songs for a dancefloor, but it also carries the responsibility of linking cultures and bridging styles on an unprejudiced space.

The concert was not without its narrative element: the story of the concert summed up KoFlow’s life story thus far, as we anachronistically started with his current phase of life, brought through a whirlwind tour of the years past.

We saw the young boy who grew up with seven people in a three-room HDB in Dakota Crescent, who joined a gang in his younger years to make a quick buck, and eventually finding salvation through skateboarding and the art of turntablism. An imposing curved screen provided the visual elements that made KoFlow's journey so compelling.

He most notably brought on his previous b-boy group Radikal Forze, which he had a part in founding. For the first time, break dancing took centre stage in the concert hall, which is more known for 80-piece string orchestras rather than underground b-boy artistry.

As a DJ trained in old-school turntablism, he also attempted to bridge technology with the use of vinyl emulation for most of the set, and eventually unearthing his well-loved collection of vinyl singles to show off his true skills in the art form. 

Having performed previously with an 80-piece orchestra, the finale — which saw him pairing up with an eight-piece string ensemble — showcased KoFlow masterfully weaving sounds from his turntables with the sounds of cellos, violas, violins, and drums. 

What was most momentous about KoFlow's concert was showing a side of Singaporean hip-hop that would rarely make it to the hallowed confines of an Esplanade hall, let alone most grand live stages in the country. KoFlow's journey was not conceptualized in vanity — like the forefathers of the genre, the DJ crafted an artful avenue as a means of inspiration for younger DJs, B-boys, artists and the like. 

KoFlow spends his time continuing to work on his craft, and bringing others into the fold with classes. FLOW wasn't merely the story of KoFlow — it was a watershed for a community worth paying attention to. KoFlow had his moment in the sun, now it's time for others to shine.