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26 Jul 2021

Gabriel Chong: The Man Who Led Malaysia's Dance Music Scene

by puaweiyi | News, Feature


You may have known him as Jeneral Kai. Sometimes as Gabriel Mustaqim; and once as DeepHouseSociety (DHS). Nonetheless, he was Gabriel Chong: the Godfather of Malaysian house music.


Gabriel Chong was a man ahead of his time. Sensing the lack of consistency in Malaysia’s music scene, he took the reins and reinvented the scene that eventually led to Malaysia, or rather Kuala Lumpur, becoming Time Out UK’s fourth best place to party in the world during the 90s.


“He is symbolic of the ’90s in KL where there was a confident vibe, and attitude was everything” wrote UNRESERVED Editor-In-Chief Kassandra Kassim in her tribute to Gabriel. “I like to think he played a big role in that.”


Gabriel was 15 when he began his career as a DJ. Born in Singapore, he represented the island nation as the youngest participant at the 1988 DMC World Championships in London. He would later move to the city of Kuala Lumpur and take matters into his own hands to build Malaysia’s dance music scene.


He established Kuala Lumpur’s first dance record shop, Singles Shoppe. He also founded Tempo, an event management company that would go on to organise events and put Malaysia on the map of the global club network. The city’s status as a global clubbing destination cemented further with famous DJs like Jon Carter, Carl Cox, Sasha, Ritchie Hawtin including Malaysia as one of their main stops during tours. Gabriel had shared the stage with some of them at clubs like ‘Movement and Carbon’.


Gabriel was an indisputable link between Southeast Asia and the Western World. His exceptional turntable qualities earned him bookings to play in events in Europe and North America in the 1990s. He was a leading name in both Malaysia and Southeast Asia, playing at the top clubs and other landmark dance events in Kuala Lumpur.


As a DJ, he was known for his dynamism and versatility, like layering tribal percussions with driving techno music in big room peak sets. His sets comprise a wide range of different dance music: from House to Techno, Tech House and Tribal, Minimal and Electro music. His progressive, experimental nature is seen in a number of his past collaborations, including those with international artists like Haze.


Gabriel’s ambitions went further when he became a trainer for younger DJs through the initiative “One Stop DJ Shop” with his record shop, Singles Shoppe, in downtown Kuala Lumpur during the 90s. He was also a co-host for a radio show that had been instrumental in introducing underground music to a larger audience. It was Malaysia’s first dance music radio show on Capital FM called ‘Turn It Up’. The show had featured mixes, tunes, and interviews from local DJs and upcoming talents.


Gabriel’s visions for the Malaysian dance scene didn’t stop there. As an event promoter, Gabriel asserted the importance of venue, line-up, and the take-home experience of the audience. He took on projects that could raise the existing standards of Malaysian dance events even higher.


A former resident with Zouk Kuala Lumpur, after an illustrious career of more than 20 years, Gabriel passed away on July 7, 2021 from health complications. At 48 years old, he had accomplished many things for the Malaysian dance music scene that the local community and Southeast Asia region will always remember him for.