Kisumu by night

The sun's rays reflect over the calm waters of Lake Victoria forming a panoramic glow of a city as it comes to life to life especially after dusk, writes DAVID ODONGO

Apart from humidity, Kisumu City has for long been regarded as the entertainment capital of the western region. From the glamour of lakeside resorts to exclusive entertainment joints, the city never sleeps.

Here, the patrons can sample clubs in the pocket range. Most residents favour neighbourhood bars and pubs unless one’s taste runs deeper. Checking out other joints in town can also be an exciting experience. A good stop is Octopus aka Bottoms Up, which spells modern minimalism all over.

It is furnished in black, with an elevated DJ booth, a central bar and several VIP seating areas. The pounding bass lines of resident DJ get a lot of bodies shaking, but strangely, there is no clearly designated dance floor.

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Outside the club, you’re met with almost semi-nude girls hoping to land a catch. Shocked with their antics, my guide, a Kisumu artiste, Nebulazz, offers some advice; "It is normal. This is where they look for and wait for clients," he adds.

Octopus has been around for years and consistently attracts huge, diverse crowds both young and old.

A walk around the town centre reveals that there is an upmarket Grill for those who prefer style, mostly patronised by the well heeled and it reeks of class.

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Area 51, formerly Basement club seems to be the youth’s favourite. The extremely loud music combined with the colourful lights everywhere, this can be a dizzying place... perfect for the youth partying.

Another upmarket pub, Mon Amie clearly attracts the higher echelons of the market. Most of the customers are entrepreneurial hot shots and business people such as bankers, lawyers and government officials. This is also reflected in the prices, which by the way, are above average. The ambience in this club can be described as exclusive and high class. DÈcor is glossy and slick. The only let downs are the lack of a place to talk quietly and a dance floor.

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No entertainment venue fills up every day as the Kisumu Social Hall. It is evident the residents have a strong bias towards Ohangla music.

"It is always full by nine in the night, everyday. Maybe it’s because of the minimal gate charges or Kisumu residents just love ohangla music," says Nebulazz.

With an entrance option of buying a single beer or soda, the Social Hall teems with a mature crowd, who want to get away from the ruckus of the youth.

Outskirts gigs

In Kondele, Barizi and Sunspot are popular among people who like to stay out late — and early into the morning. Comfortable seating and ghostly interior creates the ideal backdrop for the local ohangla bands, and a resident DJ who play a different type of music each night. Dance away and then hang out at Club Bakulutu at the Mamboleo showground, with interesting decor and a great location, with a variety of music that keeps the dance floor full.

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This is one of the best addresses in town. This bar takes advantage of its enviable locale by offering everything a visitor could want. The door policy is somewhat restrictive, but once inside, you will find the decor is a colourful, light and simple visual treat. Another spot, Kengeles, is an exclusive pub. It does not cater to the rowdy young, but offers great music, ambience and dancing to a classy, sophisticated crowd. In spite of the heat, everyone seems to be stylishly dressed, as I am informed by my guide, "Dress your best for the locals prefer typically high fashion and well-dressed," warns Nebulazz.

For those who like to dance the night away, Bomas Place along Kakamega Road is the place to be. Famed for its live Benga music, the venue has several acts lined up every week.

Kisumu City boasts a wide variety of restaurants, from casual family restaurants to fine dining establishments. With all these entertainment options, guests may feel overwhelmed, but local showbiz gurus aren’t minting money. "There is no money in this town. I set up a studio eight years ago and we practically make nothing from music," says Chuqua Records CEO, Thomas Milongo.

Chuqua Records was the first fully fledged recording studio in Kisumu but Milongo gave up recording music and now focuses on documentaries and adverts.

"I still record music, but I don’t dwell on it much. It just can’t pay the bills. I think it is also because there aren’t many concerts here and most artistes have no way to earn money from their music," explains Milongo.

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Local artiste, Nebulazz says the town only comes to life when schools are closed.

"Whenever kids are on holidays, I get a lot of invitations to go perform at local clubs. We have very few concerts coming these sides. The last biggest concert was more than four months ago, and that was because it was Safaricom Live concert, and the entrance was free," grumbles Nebulazz.

House of Funk

Despite low profits on the showbiz scene, Mista Ade of House of Funk seems to be the only recession-proof Kisumu music business entrepreneur. Often described as the Homeboyz of Kisumu, Mista Ade sees opportunity all around him.

"It’s definitely more challenging, but options exist like never before," he says.

"Some time back, there wasn’t a month, sometimes not even a week that went by that we didn’t see a major act in our city. Things have been slow, but one thing I have come to realise with Kisumu residents is that if the music is live, they will attend. That’s why bands flourish," he adds.

Founded in 2001, Mista Ade’s House of Funk is the largest entertainment outfit in the western region.

"There is no major concert that happens within the city that I don’t provide sound," concludes Mista Ade.

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Kisumu entertainment gigs