Friday, June 25, 2010

Daniel Metcalfe on Nairobi's live music scene.
Like any big city, Nairobi has plenty of low-quality gigs, but equipped with some online dailies, such as and, you can strike out. Make it your mission to catch Orchestra Super Mazembe and the Harmoniq's Jazz Band.

Every weekend, Nairobians flood into Westlands, the city's drinking district. The writhing floor of Black Diamond on Mpaka Road offers a dim but unhealthy recollection of university nightspots, only sweatier and louder. Gipsy on Woodvale Grove is fun, though the sheer overload of expats and conflicting boomboxes (four) leaves you feeling fragile and bewildered.
But the Klub House, a thumping, jumping, local bar on the Ojijo road, was exactly what I was looking for. Less self-conscious than the GoDown Arts Centre, it had an unchained buzz. Crammed round small wooden tables, people chattered, while waitresses twirled through the close-packed crowd. This was where I found Gogo Simo, one of Nairobi's hottest acts, led by married couple James Jozee and Susan Wanjiru from Mombasa, who brought a raw, good-time energy to the venue. With clear soul and funk influences, they also draw on benga and soukous (of course), zouk – a Caribbean carnival vibe, and chakacha – a bopping dance sound from the coast. Susan was remarkably dynamic, one minute belting like a Swahili Aretha, before descending minutes later into a sizzling near-whisper. I caught the band after the gig, and they explained the inspiration behind their music.
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