If you are up for a crazy time in the company of a lovely lady for a fee, or just the sight of dancers gyrating to nasty songs, not even The Rona can stop.
We took a tour - a physical and a virtual one - around Nairobi to see what life looks like, and it’s safe to say the city never sleeps.
In Nairobi’s CBD, the working hours have changed, with some displaying their ‘business’ from as early as 8am, along River Road, Luthuli Avenue, and the tens of streets and roads in between.
With the curfew moved from 7pm to 9pm, night hours are still hard to get by, as the whole country sleeps. But, for the brave, life is normal.
Last Friday, we made a stopover at one brothel that’s also a bar and restaurant along Moi Avenue, and it was business as usual. Even as we hurried to leave the premises before a police raid happened, or the doors were closed as per government directives, more people were coming in, clearly working under their own terms of engagement!
“Tuko biz (We are in business),” one lovely lady with dancing eyes told us when we inquired. “Hii Nairobi ni ujanja (Nairobi needs one to be smart). Otherwise, what will you eat?”
People were having drinks, not a single sausage on their tables. Other than tables being spaced out, there was nothing else that was different.
“Once you leave here, how you get home is up to you because if you are arrested, that’s up to you,” the lady added before she swaggered off to a man who had caught her eye.
In most brothels across town, the daytime hours have been the operating hours. As we cruised around, we went into a number, where the atmosphere was the same.
Pre-Covid, the daytime hours experienced sparse traffic, with the ladies fewer. Not at the moment, where throngs of people make a beehive of activity, trying to make hay before night falls.
And when night falls, some establishments will lock you in, shut the music, but continue quenching your throat and other thirsts.
We moved out of the CBD.
“We have been closed since March,” says Wavinya Williams, singer and Head of PR at XS Millionaires, the joint which used taglines like ‘Whatever happens at XS Millionaires stays at XS Millionaires. “But we are opening this week (Wednesday).”
She is, however, quick to clarify that contrary to what many think, the establishment is not a strip club, but one where pole dancing, or exotic dancing, takes place.
“Let me make one thing clear. We are a professional outfit. We don’t have strippers, what we have are exotic dancers who are never completely naked. We don’t even have rooms!” she says.
So, where did all the dancers go to after the lockdown?
“Surviving. A good number appeared on Xtian Dela’s Club Covid (Instagram Live), with some winning the prize money,” explains Wavinya.
“Almost all the popular dancers are from XS.”
We talked to Pamela, a Tanzanian dancer at XS with over 17,000 followers on Instagram, who has been taking the time off to learn music.
“I have been training with a music coach because I eventually want to become a singer. Age is catching up with me and I can’t be a dancer forever,” she tells us, saying she is in her early 30s.
How much has Covid-19 disrupted their livelihoods?
“A lot,” she says, confirming there had been a message asking the dancers to report to work on Wednesday. The place will be operational on daytime hours “Already, the business has not been great as it was two or so years ago. We used to make so much and lived more comfortably.”
Gengetone artiste Benzema contracted some to appear on his video Ngwatiology, a saucy piece of work with raunchy scenes. They include Nisher Jambie and Sherlyne Anyango, the latter one of the breakout vixens of 2020, and a big winner on Covid Club.
Some of the best videos in showbiz, including from gospel artistes, are shot at XS or feature the dancers.
“A professional outfit with rules and regulations, and proper rules when it comes to our dancers,” Wavinya says proudly.
It is also a time that some of the dancers have decided to go big on the Internet, at a time when the ‘net has provided the most entertainment and reinventions from the innovative.
“Most of them finally saw the need to have social media accounts, so some joined Instagram, while others opened YouTube channels to teach willing Kenyans some dance moves,” Wavinya explains.
“If you have a following on your social media pages, you can make money dancing on Live,” adds Pamela, who was coy when we asked how much in tips they made per night dancing.
“I won’t tell you the figure, but just know you can live comfortably if you are not a spendthrift!” Away from dancers, we were informed that in some estates, strippers and ‘masseuses’ had come together to rent out houses that they have turned into business premises.
In one such premise in Kilimani area, a group of exotic ladies has hired a fenced apartment complete with a swimming pool and a functioning bar. Accessed only by known patrons who, on request, can invite close friends, strict adherence to noise restriction is observed, and at an agreeable fee and a few drinks, willing partners can ‘extend their dance in a private room.’
“We have to survive, but most importantly we have fun, a few drinks, and some money for our personal use,” says one.
“Corona has meant we invent and innovate.”
The private mansions had made attempts to place sanitizers for their customers, but the urge to use them has relatively declined. Occasionally, shisha bongs, weed, and other drugs are passed around. Once in, nobody really cares about what is happening to the rest of the world.
In case time flies and one is caught up by curfew hours, worry not, for some extra coins and a few drinks, the rooms, and a partner will ensure you have a cosy night. A caterer will also deliver food on order.
However, it is evident as they confess, it’s not business as usual.
“Nowadays business is hard to come by on weekdays, so we have to wait for the weekend to see if the situation improves,” Fatma, who operates in a residence at Upper Hill tells us.
“Clients coming in is a good thing because we get to eat. Unlike other times when we have an abundance of choice, we are desperate at the moment.”
“Many people are more scared of being busted here than they fear corona,” she adds.
Besides the physical locations, we were directed to study social media patterns for the last three months. According to a source who sought anonymity, there has been a spike in ‘business ladies’ ‘exotic dancers’ ‘influencers’ and ‘brands’ on the platforms, especially Instagram
“Look, the Government can enforce a curfew, and close all bars, brothels, strip clubs and Nairobi streets, but it cannot stop a lady you meet online from coming into your house. True?” our source pompously asks.
According to him, Instagram has become a hook-up zone, where some ladies openly parade their trade, with the option of being hosted in their houses, or getting rooms in town.
“The DM has no shame. This business has no shame. Whatever works for these ladies, is utilised to the maximum. Kwanza after Corona, some ladies won’t go back to the street, because the power of the Internet is immense, and of course, it’s less cold than the Nairobi streets!”