Mad House, the disco standing sanely on single concrete column

By Nairobian Team

It has defined Nairobi’s nightlife for 34 years with its ‘360 degrees of fun’ every night.

But most Wednesdays, and for natty dread years, few joints offered roots-rockers-reggae than the New Florida Night Club, an appendage of Chai House along the sin stretch that is K-Street. The spaceship shaped exterior with a red façade punctuated by tiny reflective windows is famous as ‘Mad House.’

And Boy! Isn’t Madi famous?

Among those who have enjoyed music, chicken wings at its Pahali Restaurant and Midnight Burner Dancers include Jamaican reggae artistes King Yellowman, Glen Washington and Joseph Hill, South Africa’s jazz great Hugh Masekela, American Shaggy and Congolese band Wenga Musica.

Clubs come and go, but the Florida Night Clubs rarely ‘chew a blackout.’ A little history will do. South African Tam Winkie was footloose when he landed in Mombasa in 1958.

He thought its palm-fringed beaches resembled Florida in the land of ‘Uncle Barry.’

Why the Florida logos sport a palm tree flanking the defunct black vinyl disc. Tam Winkie decided Kenya would be home and forthwith sold his business concerns in the Rainbow Nation. He first bought the Dolphin Swimming Club, changed its name to Monsoon Club and introduced live gigs.

But John Badham’s 1977 rave-inspired flick, Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta as Tony Manero altered Kenyan nightlife. Revellers demanded disco music for the party sub-culture, the haute-couture dress code and pre-‘hive’ sexual promiscuity depicted in Saturday Night Fever whose sound track popularised songs like; You Should Be Dancing,  Stayin’ Alive, How Deep is Your Love and Night Fever by the Bee Gees.

Tam Winkie obliged and Florida Night Clubs were born, in-house Djs and all. Mad House opened shop in 1977-with Florida 2000 shimmering caterwauling mirror-bowl lights on its aluminum floor in 1983.

Fun seeking foreigners can’t claim to have jetted here without stepping into any of the Floridas where the concept of time is lost and not necessarily after watching the erotic Midnight Cabaret show. But did you know that “Mad House” (whose contractual tenure court cases almost saw it shut down in 2010 to give way for demolition) the city’s sole circular disco has the only building in Nairobi standing on a single concrete column?