NANJINIA WAMUSWA and TED MALANDA take you back in time, when love and lust were brewed in local dances
The smoky tin lamp made for disco lights. The bouncer was a village ruffian with a scythe tucked menacingly in his belt.
A pretty girl sat next to the man of the hour — the DJ — demurely wiping sweat from his face. It was boogie time at a local dance, oloko as we called it.
Although he had only three hairs on his chin, Wasike considered himself a man, a ladies man, and his catch, Atsieno, was 16, brazen and wild.
There being no guesthouses, Atsieno was impregnated in the banana groove behind the hut. The year was 1977. They left together that night, to his home, to live happily thereafter.
That was the golden era of the local dance when young men and women convened at night to socialise, table both false and genuine marriage proposals and, above all, boogie and have fun.
The raves were rampant during the festive season. Such was the time when young women broke free from their marriage vows and melted into the darkness, overwhelmed by the allure of nightlong merriment. These are women whose marriages were brokered at a local dance and the temptation for just one ‘final dance’ always held sway. Often, this final dance sent them parking to the bar as barmaids.
In Western Kenya, it is said the local dance owes its origin to the educated boys of an earlier era — the likes of the late assistant minister Dr Elon Willis Wameyo. Such Makerere boys, ‘British’ and ‘cool’ to the core, would arrange elaborate parties in December where peers from St Mary’s Yala, Maseno School and other big schools in the region would be invited.
The guests would come with female cousins, Class Eight graduates — highly educated by the standards of the time. It is fitting to note that the girls came with full knowledge of their parents because the parties were an accepted forum for courtship among the elite of that time. Many of those tough boys maintained lifelong bonds with their schoolmates because they married friends’ cousins and became family.
The village version was not as dignified or as classy, though. On the contrary, it was a place of scandal, frowned upon within religious circles in the village and a place where good, well-bred girls would never be caught dead.
Unlucky parents had a hectic time locking up their daughters, who sneaked through windows, sometimes with the connivance of naughty grandmothers, to go shake a leg.
Most of those girls were in primary school. They arrived dressed in men’s shoes, white stockings and crimpling dresses with handkerchiefs tucked in their belts. High school boys of the time derisively called them ‘calicos’.
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