Cover 222 Arts Club founders (from left) David Toh, Alfredo Castillo, Zaran Vachha and Teo Yeow Chuan

The newly opened club caters to the country's underserved music community by offering local musicians opportunities to hone their craft and showcase their talents

Since Zaran Vachha and Alfredo Castillo founded music events agency Collective Minds in 2017, they often found themselves faced with numerous stumbling blocks when it comes to finding suitable venues to hold their concerts.

Even as seasoned event promoters—Vachha and Castillo have over 44 years of experience between them—they are always faced with issues such as sky‑high costs or the lack of a central location. “We’ve always talked about having a space for musicians to develop their craft, simply because there’s no space in Singapore that really services the arts industry,” laments Vachha. 

So late last year when the duo heard about the availability of such a space, they jumped at it. Together with technical production director David Toh and designer Teo Yeow Chuan, they established the 222 Arts Club, a 5,000 square feet space located in the Bras Basah district.

The space was conceptualised as a “blank-canvas” venue that allows creative collaboration and a cross-pollination of ideas. It is available for rental to various creative entities—even beyond the music sector—for different purposes. For performers, “we tried to make the set-up as modular as possible. Even the stage is collapsible for events such as fashion shows”, says Toh, a council member of The Music Society, Singapore.

 

Beyond its spatial versatility, the 222 Arts Club also wants to raise the bar for young artists and musicians. With the space, which can be rented at special rates based on various needs and financial abilities, the quartet will also take the budding artists through the process of selecting the equipment necessary for their performances. This way, not only will they have more opportunities to play their own shows, they will be equipped with the knowledge of what it takes to produce one as well.

According to Vachha and Castillo, there is growing appetite for alternative music among music lovers in Singapore. “The city has the strongest base of cool kids who are open, knowledgeable, and wanting to see new things,” says Vachha. “The [alternative music] sector is underserved and that’s where we have found our common ground with our audience.”

Since it opened in February, the venue has hosted a performance by London-based five-piece jazz band Ezra Collective, who weave Afrobeat and hip-hop into their music.

“Everyone has an idea of jazz and often associates it with the likes of Kenny G, but it has such different interpretations,” says Vachha.

Exposing audiences to different variations of music genres is also what the founders hope to achieve with the 222 Arts Club. In turn, they hope to inspire local musicians to hone their craft and tour like international acts. “They will realise that they don’t have to be pop stars” but as Vachha suggests, be musicians who play for big names.

Bound by a passion to see the local music industry thrive, Toh shares the group’s plan to provide more spaces in the future. “Although we are a commercial entity, we believe that money can come in from other avenues. It’s the sense of community that we cannot lose.”

(Related: Kevin Cuturi Wishes To Support Aspiring Local Artists Through His Gallery's Newest Initiative)