What do you do when your favourite Nairobi nightclub closes its doors indefinitely? Do you stay indoors on the weekends until it opens again? Or do you cheat on it with another club that almost matches up?
Well, that’s the familiar story of MUZE club. It has been on the low from the vibrant Nairobi nightlife scene since its closure in September 2019. The result of this has been seeing fellow music junkies less and going home before 6 am on the weekend.
But like any other company, our favourite nightclub threw an end of year “Christmas” party. One last music event in Nairobi, before they unveiled the new MUZE stage at Kilifi New Year 2020.
MUZE Annual Showcase was not just its one-year anniversary party. It was also the launch of the first compilation album of MUZE club favourites – kinda like Sounds of Sasaab VA. The Kenyan album features contemporary music by outstanding singers, DJs and producers who’ve performed at MUZE in 2019.
For the past year, MUZE has been the home of alternative music junkies who graduated from Alchemist Bar and left it to the college turn-up kids. We used to frequent the latter for Zazibar and The Backyard Bar – when it used to be at the back. And maybe to indulge in Mama Rocks burgers and Kenyan film nights on select Tuesdays.
But since its club premiere on 30th November 2019, MUZE club has completely changed nightlife in Nairobi. Its main charm was the dedicated dance floor with enchanting LED lights, trippy smoke effects and potent Funktion One speakers. With one of the best sounds in Nairobi, we helplessly got lost in the lights and the music.
And how many uptown clubs in Nairobi do you know with an actual dance floor? This one was immortalized by Bensoul’s music video for his hit single Lucy.
There was always something new and exciting happening during the weekend. Every Friday was live hip-hop with some of the freshest Kenyan rappers: Vallerie Muthoni, Barak Jacuzzi, Shappaman, Wakadinali, Juliani, Steph Kapela and the list goes on and one.
Saturdays were for house music lovers with Suraj, L.A. Dave, Vidza, Jack Rooster, Foozak, Lasta and Blinky Bill on the decks. These local legends kept us on our dancing feet all night long.
Once upon a time, MUZE was open on Sundays too. Acoustic Sundayz was the chillout sundowner event after yoga in the park. Curated by Folk Fusion Nairobi, it hosted some of our favourite live Kenyan musicians including Tetu Shani, Serro and Kaskazini.
But when Ayrosh and Tha Movement performed, it was more of a folk meets rock party than an acoustic session.
We can never forget the big shows at MUZE. When South African Afro-house duo Black Motion filled up the entire club, breathing became a real problem. It was literally the craziest party I have ever attended.
The first Kenyan Juice party by Ochungulo Family was also a huge success. Gengetone fans showed up and showed out. MUZE also hosted the Nyege Nyege Festival 2019 warm-up party, and later the Electrafrique comeback with Africa Nouveau as its final show on September 28th.
After a successful year of organizing events in Nairobi, why release a compilation album? Well, the club owners Matt and Willie were more than willing to explain.
According to them, MUZE Annual 2019 is a musical snapshot of the year. A time capsule of our Kenyan anthems, just like Sounds of Nairobi has captured the current city soundscape. Something that will be used as a future reference of what Kenyan music sounded like in 2019. Something for longevity.
They wanted to capture the bubbling Kenyan music scene which is defined by a lot of self-producing and self-management. And as part of building this scene, they are able to see which artists need support in which area.
“We’re investing in these artists by doing this kind of release, which is kind of important to us. It’s nice to release an album that’s so representative of Nairobi now in a time when things are heating up.” Matt explains.
“I think that some of these people have the potential to go global, like Blinky Bill and Muthoni Drummer Queen have”, Willie adds. “We need to export Kenyan music so that people can know our distinct culture”.
And just like that, we revisit the Kenyan sound discussion.
A Kenyan song is usually a mixture of Swahili and English, also known as Swanglish. “It’s a common thread I found between some of these songs,” he says.
One way of describing Kenyan music, don’t you think?
The Album Tracklist
In curating the Kenyan songs that made it to this compilation album, they had to see who’s been putting out new music consistently. Their aim was to cover the entire length and breadth of Kenya’s contemporary music scene with tracks from the Afro-House, Hip-Hop and Folk Fusion genres, and everything else in-between.
The first track is Uka Mami by Folk Fusion star Ayrosh who released his debut project Murasta EP at a sold-out concert on June 14th 2019. He’s had an absolutely fantastic year gracing the inaugural Mugithi Festival and his end-of-year Folk Fusion party. And what an honour it was to perform in front of the whole country at the Jamhuri Day celebrations on the same day of the album launch.
The Coco Masta Barak Jacuzzi delivers #MoJuice in Lifestyle Part 2. This second single off his upcoming After Party Music EP was produced by Factory DJs. The two Kenyan music producers interestingly started out in EDM (like Benzema of Ochungulo Family) and are now churning out hip-hop and trap tunes.
Meanwhile, the globe trotter Blinky Bill brings the Kenyan queens Mayonde and Muthoni Drummer Queen in Feeling It off his album Everyone’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales.
For the House Movement lovers, Siangalii Nyuma by Jack Rooster featuring the gorgeous vocals of Nuru is for you. This is an absolute fan favourite from his debut album Nyumba which he’s been promoting all over Europe this year. You’ll know why when you listen to it.
It’s been such a spicy year for Vallerie Muthoni and she’ll be crowning it at Kilifi New Year. Her contribution to the MUZE Annual 2019 album is No Chances which is her third single and first shot at rapping. Even in 2017, she still had that unmatched confidence “Cause Brown Suga coming back for the throne and you know that she taking no chances”.
Kizazi artist King Kerby also presents his classy ode to the African queens. In case you didn’t know, Ma-dame comes from his 2018 album Mapenzi Sio Dini. Which he recently put on streaming platforms – finally!
This limited edition album has already been pre-ordered and bought by Kenyan music enthusiasts who want to keep this timeless collection forever. Only available on CD, it is made for playing in the car as you take a road trip to Nanyuki – or Kilifi.
It also acts as a perfect Christmas gift to a friend living abroad who wants to hear what the latest Kenyan music sounds like. Basically, we’re exporting Kenyan music to the world.
And when you buy the album, you support the artist. So everybody wins.
MUZE Annual Showcase
The MUZE Annual 2019 launch party was held at Circle Art Gallery on 910 James Gichuru Road. Next to Palanka Restaurant, this quirky music venue regularly hosts Kenyan art exhibitions and live concerts, like Folk Fusion.
The previously announced location was The Social House in Lavington, but I guess it was too soon for the brand new hotel to host events.
This daytime concert was meant to start at noon on Jamhuri Day. But like any Kenyan party, it started late. Or rather guests arrived late.
I walked in at 7pm to Jack Rooster’s voice on the mic. Yup, Jack is back! And this was his first gig in Nairobi since coming back home.
Bumping deep-house tunes probably borrowed from Europe, he proved why he’s the pioneer of playing Afro-house music in Kenya through his popular Kenyan radio show Caffe Mocha.
His set was followed by L.A. Dave, another Kenyan house pioneer, mixing house tunes and alternative hip-hop. I didn’t get to hear TAIO’s set, but we can always go back to his fire MUZE mix on Soundcloud which goes down best with a cocktail during sunset.
The chilly night was heated up by live performances by NuNairobi stars Vallerie Muthoni, Shappaman and Bahati Bookings with DJ Lasta and G.I. Selects supporting them on the decks. Brown Suga brought that hefty groove on behalf of TAIO and Le Ru in Spicy SZN.
After dancing to his all Kenyan hip-hop set, I finally understood why G.I. won best alternative DJ of the year at Cafe Ngoma Awards 2019 the previous night. He sure knows his NuNairobi stuff. Jack Rooster branded him the new generation.
Plus Enjoyment by BV Accurate slaps different when you hear it at a party like that.
We hang out until midnight under two white tents outside the art gallery with a small bar and an even more intimate crowd. It turned out to be a reunion party for MUZE fans and artists, from Karun to Marcus Wi – who are both featured in the album.
Basically, it felt like the Backyard Bar was back.
And the inner gallery felt like ADA Creative Studios. But this one had amazing artwork on the white walls reflecting Nairobi’s everyday culture of technology, relationships and clubbing. It was a 2 in 1 event.
Everybody knows hippie bars in Nairobi like the Alchemist and J’s Fresh Bar and Kitchen which are constantly expanding and evolving. Alchemist seems to look different every day while J’s Westlands now has a secret garden for Afro-house music lovers.
But like KWETU Space, MUZE is not a place. Rather, it’s a feeling that moves with the people whether to Kilifi or Lavington.
Rather than a massive end of year party, MUZE instead chose to host a Thursday chill out, for friends and family of MUZE to have a good time. And a good time we had.
The highlight of my night was singing along to Siangalii Nyuma with Jack Rooster and Willie. And going through Michael Soi’s colourful exhibition “Heaven Can Wait.”
I can only imagine how good it will feel jamming to those 10 Kenyan songs on a road trip to nowhere.
MUZE club promises this will be the first of many. Especially for the annual compilation album. And before Lasta left the mic, his last words were “See you back at MUZE on February 29th”.
So it’s okay to cheat on your favourite nightclub before they reopen in 2020, yeah?
Images courtesy of MUZE club