Discover Nairobi Nightlife Through Music- When the City Party’s
Nairobians love their drink. Could be a cultural thing or just collective escapism from living in an African city faced with the varagities of being on the shot-end of neo-liberalism. But that’s not the story for today. There are loads of songs about partying in Nairobi and other aspects of Nairobi nightlife but we picked only these two. Here is why.
This article is the second of a series on : A portrait of Nairobi Through Music. This project feels for the fine contours of the body and soul of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, through review of music. In this soundtrack filled voyage we’ve distilled city guides like no other. Unlike coffee table types or glossy inflight magazine cliche types. Like this piece on Nairobi nightlife.
1 My City My Town – Prezzo & Cannibal
You can’t miss that Taarab feel at the start of the this upbeat track dropped in 2012 by two of Kenya’s finest hip hop artistes. There is the reality show star, entrepreneur Prezzo (Sheng for President) and the Rap King of Mombasa, Kenya: Cannibal. Clearly, the intention here was to make a crossover hit.
Anthropologists, if any are, charting the urban culture of Nairobi will agree that My City, My Town was the song that marked transition of the city’s night life repertoire from B list establishments, Club Rezorous in Westlands and Club Betty’s on Kimathi street come to mind, to more sophisticated Nairobi nightlife offerings that Prezzo mentions at the start .
Prezzo’s characteristic simple flow pays homage to SkyLuxx Lounge – One of Nairobi’s pioneer A-list-ish night spots. He also paradoxically big ups gomba (Don’t Nairobians love their Khat! We might have a theory why, but a story at a time.) By now, via the journey we’ve covered so far, you must have figured that if Nairobi suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Nairobi’s Bad Case of DID
Maybe in featuring Cannibal, Prezzo seeks to cure some of the city’s personality issues. The Kaya Hip Hop god, gives the track identity, killing three birds with one stone. First, his cameo helps Prezzo builds the Hip Hop cred of My City My Town . Cannibal is a respected lyricist in the Kenyan music scene thus the genre placing problems faced by many Kenyan songs is averted.
Secondly, Cannibal’s presence in a song that’s all about Nairobi nightlife confirms Nairobi’s new status as an A- List nightlife spot. By name dropping all Mombasa favorite joints, Cannibal allows listeners to appreciate the then gulf in class between My City (Nairobi) My Town (Mombasa ).
Finally Cannibal’s dip in the pool helps cements Nairobi’s status as home of the nouveu Riche. The young upstarts we talked about earlier, who have the luxury of Nairobi, Mombasa and elsewhere in the republic as their play spots over the weekend.
With the commissioning of the SGR, partying in Nairobi and waking up in Mombasa could be the norm. In 2012, that was not only a costly affair but nigh impossible if one wished to be a productive citizen the Monday morning after. In 2012, the budget airline Jambo Jet was two years away. Indeed, the situation of life has drastically changed in Nairobi in the last decade.
Nairobi nightlife: Evidence of Kenya’s capital transformation with economic growth spurt in the late 2000’s
In the aftermath of the 2008 global economic crisis, European money found a home in frontier markets like Kenya. Coupled with the Kenyesian policies of Pres. Mwai Kibaki, Nairobi exploded. Some statistics had Nairobi hitting peaks of GDP growth rate >8 % in the fourth quarter of 2010.
My City, My Town music video’s on point cinematography and directing alludes to this new wealth and sophistication. And if you missed the Taarab influence in the beat, you surely can’t miss the subtle sampling of Naughty by Nature’s Hip Hop Horray in the happy upbeat feeling of this song
2 Huku Nairobi-Historians
If anything Huku Nairobi makes the cut as it tells us of the journey of the road traveled. For those uninitiated in Kenyan music, this was a big hit somewhere in the early 2000’s? I emphasize the, was, part because I’d struggle today to explain any of that.
But it must be one of those things about music that’s hard to explain. Like author Jeffery Tucker offers: “80s music sounds so 80s now. But in the 80s, it just sounded like music. Whilst Popjustice puts it this way:
pop music can be at its most important when it’s being stupid
and at its most stupid when it’s trying to be important
We feature this song as a tip of our hat to the old adage: The more things change, the more they remain the same. Truth is partying in Nairobi in many ways is like jamming to Huku Nairobi in 2017. Tired! Same old. Same old: silly drinking, and more drinking. We Nairobians don’t care much for dancing and would rather have the extra space begot by forgoing the dance floor be filled with watering tables. That, and of course sexual rendezvous.
Rinse repeat. Shake. Juggle. Rinse repeat. Same output : Drinking, partying and sexual rendezvous. Maybe a dingy gentleman’s club here, there to spice up the scene but mostly the same. If one isn’t watchful, their visit to Nairobi might just reduce to that.
Chances are that if you ask your average Nairobian for a weekend plan, it likely will center on the three. Admittedly, quite a waste in a city with so much to offer in tourist attractions including the world-famous Nairobi National Park.