The clubbing scene in Nairobi has undergone major changes over the years, with new phenomena being introduced to enhance the experience for partygoers. This has also seen the ‘hotspots’ shift in interesting ways around the city, FAITH KYOUMUKAMA writes
A few days ago, Ridgeways Springs residents’ association committee wrote a complaint to Director Enforcement, Director of Environment, the county government and Roysambu Sub-County. The letter reference was on noise and traffic nuisance by bars along Kiambu Road.
Residents cited a few issues they wanted addressed immediately. Apart from noise and traffic, they also wanted alleged disorderly behaviour caused by patrons who flood the said establishments looked into as well.
The residents claimed that this puts them at security risk, especially when parking extends to the estate. This came months after some clubs were shut down by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), due to similar complaints.
Speaking on the letter from Ridgeways Springs, James Kuria, a director at Whisky River Lounge along Kiambu Road, disputes the claims. “We have two big clubs close to each other, so traffic is expected, and to control this, we hired 20 traffic personnel.
Parking at the estate as mentioned is impossible for customers, especially because it’s a gated community, and it’s a kilometre away from our establishment. A number of clients opt to cab, partly because we don’t have sufficient parking,” he says.
Kiambu Road seems to the hotbed of fun these days. It could be because many bachelor or bachelorettes with a middle-class source of income are opting to live in the modern apartments set up in Ruaka; it’s kind of the new South B.
Kuria reveals what motivated him and his partners to put up a club on Kiambu Road despite its closeness to the popular Jikoni’s and the other clubs there drawing droves of revellers, is that the area has a sizeable clientele. “Kiambu Road is the new Westlands, plus people love the outdoor kind of set-up,” he adds.
The showbiz sector in Nairobi has taken a big turn over the years, and individuals have invested heavily in entertainment establishments.
Gone are days when what only mattered in the club was the music.
While the catchy beats and deejays’ hyping was the in-thing a few years back, times have changed. There is more to a club such as the interior design, décor, lighting, down to how the waitresses and waiters dress.
Forget the disco ball, now most clubs have multi-coloured synchronised neon, laser, LED and stage lights, adding a different dynamic to the whole phenomenon of ambient lighting and reflection.
Around the 90s and 2000s, the area around Woodvale Grove and Mpaka Road in Westlands (aka Westie) earned itself the moniker Electric Avenue, owing to its reputation as the party hotspot at the time.
Before the existence of the clubs on the two streets and adjacent ones, revellers used to pitch tent, dance and listen to music for a few hours before calling it a night.
Then cropped up clubs such as Crooked Q, Havana Rezorous, and Midas among others. Some vanished from the scene due to poor management, or maybe their shelf lives came to an end. Westlands was it for a long time, with all kinds of crowds; the young, middle aged, even young at heart.
The nightspot also attracted city dwellers from all walks; from locals to the diplomatic community. Every weekend, most businesses in the area would operate on a 24-hour basis. From mini shops to food joints, clothing stores and beauty parlours, as the partying went nonstop all weekend.
Then came Black Diamond, Redtape, Changes and Skyluxx among others, that were a favourite with many a partygoer, especially because of the hit music featured and the crowd, as one would often surprisingly bump into friends, making the party merrier.
Now, there seems to be a new crop of clubs such as 40Forty, Brew Bistro and Marquee keeping Westie alive, but it can’t be compared to how vibrant it once was.
Although cutthroat competition has thrown some of yesteryears’ joints out of business, Black Diamond, which marked its tin anniversary last year, seems to have stood the test of time. The club was known for it’s loyal foreign clientele, which also made it a hunting spot for some women.
Then, the CBD became quite the party hub for young crowds. A few years earlier, there weren’t as many clubs in town compared to today, where almost every commercial building on Moi Avenue, Tom Mboya Street, Ronald Ngala Street, River Road, Accra Road and Latema Road hosts a nightspot.
This year, a new club known as Smash was opened on Muindi Mbingu Street, and it’s already proving to be a hit with clubbers. The CBD is the ultimate party starter, as enthusiasts would rather start off there, then end up outside town.
Many of them work in the CBD or pass through on their commute, and it is easier for some of them to beat traffic by lingering in clubs until later when the roads are clearer.
Jennifer Lusichi, also known as singer Qty of the Get Closer fame, is the club manager of Tribeka Holdings Club. She says business is down due to competition. “There is stiff competition with all the new clubs pushing us to invest a lot of money in marketing.
If a patron finds our prices higher compared to another club, they will definitely move, so, we have to keep up with the pace the industry is taking. During end month, business is usually at its peak,” comments Qty.
Before Kiambu Road, currently the ‘happening’ zone, revellers decongested the Westlands scene, moving to Ngong Road, then Langata Road followed by Kilimani.
All these are still a hit, attracting the more mature crowd. Billion Club (B Club) and Kiza, both located in Galana Plaza, Kilimani are more upscale, and considered the holy grail of the high-end partying experience.
1824 (Lang’ata Road), Space Lounge (Ngong Road) and Jiweke Tavern (Ngong Road) largely feature open-air set-ups, which was not popular. Many clubs were enclosed and had poor air conditioning. As the night progressed and more fans trickled in, the joints would turn into some sort of sauna; hot, stuffy and sweaty.
Another phenomenon that has picked in the local scene is celebrity appearances, by both international and local personalities. B Club, for example, has a celebrity appearance almost every month. Revellers in these instances have to book in advance or part with an entrance fee.
Entry charges to clubs is common the world over, even next door in Tanzania and Uganda, but has somehow never penetrated the local scene. These celeb hostings attract big numbers to the establishment.
Tribeka hosts events to pull in the crowds. “Every end month, to attract people to the club, I always make sure there is an event. For a couple of years, we used to have Mseto East Africa Night every Tuesday, that would bring in the numbers,” explains Qty.
For other joints, social media influencers are the answer. Social media user Joe Muchiri for instance, who has a large following on these networks, has marketed various joints online, such as 1824.
Speaking of which, these days, it seems to be a thing to name clubs using digits; 40Forty, 1824, Le 63 (Lang’ata), Number 7 (CBD), Club Sixty Four (CBD) and Club Sevens (CBD) among others.
Blowing money fast
It appears the fans have also grown alongside the scene, as nowadays, partygoers apparently have no qualms splurging on a night out. “These days, many revellers would rather buy bottles of whisky or vodka than drink beer the whole night,“ says Qty.
Majority who appreciate the finer things in life do not hesitate to spend on drinks such as champagne, which usually cost about Sh12,000, sparkling wine and fine cognac among others.
A couple of weeks after B Club opened, a receipt surfaced on social media, showing a bill worth over Sh1 million, and quickly became the talk of town.
The main item in it was 58 bottles of Moet champagne, which cost Sh1,160,000. At the club’s entrance, there is a Tron bike owned by the club owners, as well as a fleet of flashy cars parked outside the building, which are a huge attraction among patrons who request to pose for photos with the flashy automobiles.
The Tron bike, worth about Sh10 million, is a vehicle driven by gamers in futuristic films. The rider lays at a near-flat position and rides using the foot pegs on one end, with hands on the handlebars on the other.
During club appearances, celebrities get to wash their hands with expensive champagne. The club, which has set trends in today’s Nairobi nightlife, also has dressed up hostesses who usher patrons in.