Thursday night is one of the best nights for live music in Nairobi with live music in Choices on Baricho Road and a reggae night across town at the Klubhouse on Ojijo Road in Parklands. Travellers to Kenya’s biggest city would be recommended to try out these very cool concept events.
Nairobi city is famous for its night life which involves a lot of drinking, shisha smoking, dancing and Uber using. One of the most happening nights in this city of three and half million has to be Thursday and this past one I had one of the best one in a long time.
Thursday Nite Live is an event that happens every Thursday night of the year and happens in Choices club which is on Baricho Road. The event which started in 2012 is a brain child of Rashid Jibril of Roots International and features a live performance from a band or artists every Thursday. The unique thing about this is that the bands are never the same; you will always find a different band, and it is absolutely free. Yep. Free performances every week at an easy to access location. Some of the bands that have featured on there are Sauti Sol, Aaron Rimbui, Them Mushrooms, Les Mangelepa, Sarabi Band, and many many more. If you are the kind that is interested, you can follow the Facebook page of the event and get to know who performs in advance. If you are like me you wouldn’t really bother as whatever band shows up usually performs well; so you need to just rock up.
Take this past Thursday when I went with my good pal Freddy and a few other suspect. The person on stage was a doorag wearing gentleman called Dempsey that I had never heard of before that night. I walked in to look for my crew and I started noticing something; many of Kenya’s more well-known entertainers were in the audiences following proceedings on the stage. They included Sauti Sol’s Bein Aime and Chimano, Elani’s Maureen, Wambui and the guy singer, Dela Maranga, Juliani, Idd Aziz, and more.
This was a bit confusing as I wondered what the attraction of the young man on the stage was all about. As I asked a good friend who was in the audience what the hype was all about he explained the story. Turns out Dempsey was one of the more promising artists in the country but for some reason he decided to up and leave the game three years ago prompting a flood of tears from fellow artists. It wasn’t evident why he had left the game but this night was him saying that he heard everyone’s cry and he was back to take his rightful place in his chosen profession.
As he sung and strummed his guitar, I came to understand how he played the guitar with some skill and his voice which was a bit subdued for me seemed to be quite unique. The tiny space allocated to dancing was filled with fans who were jamming to his music who knew him from his heydays. Also in the audience was a component that has become a regular at Thursday Nite Live; white folks. I don’t know how the word got out about this event but nowadays you will see a few dozen white folks jamming to the featured bands of the evening. It wasn’t the most standout performance I have heard at this live event but it was good to be there to get the pulse of city and its live music.
With the performance ended, we jumped into an Uber and headed out to Klubhouse which is one of the most famous party spots in Kenya. It cost us Kshs250 to get there believe it or not. The spot which has been around for two decades or thereabouts has three formal areas to party; the replica stadium where lovers of sport can watch their favourite matches like in a real stadium, the Klubhouse which has a formal dancefloor and the Pitcher and Butch which is designated for older revellers.
Pitcher and Butch had become the place that more mature punters, they insist that you need to be over 25 to patronise it, have been going to of late. This area has a tinnie tiny stage, a building with a counter and a covered area for those who loved drinking outdoors.
The Thursday night had been for the last couple of years taken over by the Dohty Family, the reggae outfit, as they did their reggae night. Like every other African, reggae is a much loved music genre in Kenya and this evening had become the “uptown reggae nite.” The backstory for this uptown business is that reggae for many years has been associated with some of the more “real” elements of Kenyan society. Reggae listeners have been known for their dreadlocks and their rough ways like mugging folks and general rowdiness. The point of this reggae night was to show that even those who come from “uptown” can love reggae without having to be dreadlock wielding fanatics. You don’t have to be dread to be Rasta, the famous song went and whole point of this evening was to prove this. It has become one of the most famous concept nights in the capital.
The evening was filled with suit wearing and formally clad punters dancing to reggae with the evening’s high priest Kriss Darlin playing hits of now and then. This blogger remembers one of the songs vividly as the crowd sung along Busy Signal’s hit song Free Up. You should have seen the whole crowd singing along to the song; Marcus Garvey (black!), Barack Obama (black!). What a night. Alongside the office people who would have a problem waking up to go to work the next day was a battalion of very “well dressed” ladies of the night on the lookout for people looking out for a good time. If you went for this reggae night going home alone is a choice you make for yourself; not one that happens for lack of opportunities to score. So there you have it. Two nights you want to try out if you ever travelled into Nairobi city; Choices with Thursday Nite Live and Klubhouse K1 with Dohty Family’s Reggae Night.