Nostalgia Street: From latest music to fish and chips, Moi Avenue was place for real revellers
By Tony Mochama
| October 16th 2021
Assanand’s Music Shop was iconic, with its eclectic mix of musical instruments and musical records from days of yore.
Then technology came calling, scratching the records, unspooling the music cassettes, and spoiling their model of business. As with every decade, the way music was consumed changed every other year.
From 1991 to 2021, the world saw CDs give way to MP3s, auto-tunes become i-tunes, and i-pods give way to i-phones as playlists became individualised.
By 2014, digital music was outselling physical sales of the same.
As a result, Assanand’s has literally gone underground on Moi Avenue, but even in miniature, it is still there.
When I visited midweek, one morning, there was the model of a guitar hanging in the air, and records that wear your heart on their sleeves, making you think of Boney M singing ‘Ra-ra, Ras-putin.’
Assanand’s is surrounded by stalls selling new clothes and other stuff like that, in that arena of commerce.
This underground place used to house the Pop-In Arcade, where teens from Nairobi in the ‘80s used to come play video games on big machines, and just hang out in the way young people like to do.
Technology drove ‘gaming’ indoors to Play-Station consoles and X-Boxes; and Pop-In popped out like a big balloon that someone has stuck a needle into. Now it reflects the stall mentality of this gone CBD.
Even Ebrahim’s, across the street, stopped being a supermarket, and became an amalgamation of stalls.
That just speaks to how the urban economy has stalled, that spaces have to be sub-divided, and businesses sliced up to survive; so that it is hard to find one huge model of SME taking up a large place.
KENCHIC to SONFORD
Once upon a time in Kenya, there was a fast-food business called Kenchic; and people like Kevin Ndirangu, 60, who came from Murang’a in 1985, thought it the height of sophistication to eat there.
“I do not know,” the retired school principal says, with nostalgia, “there was just something finger-licking good about that ka-quarter chicken, half fries and soda package that is not there with the outlets of these days.”
Fittingly enough, Ndirangu in retirement has become a poultry farmer. Kenchic started in 1983, with three thousand chicks being hatched at its breeder farm in Athi River. There was a broiler farm in Tigoni, and eventually 5,000 fowls being processed daily in Limuru.
Then its market was sliced in half – at the top target end by the Chicken Inns, and middle eaters by KFC.
And after flailing about for a bit like a headless chicken, this Kenyan company shut its biz, or beak, in 2016.
Round about the time it opened, the most watched show in Kenya, on VoK, was the sitcom ‘Sanford and Son,’ a comedy about a cantankerous black junk dealer and his Afro-puff haired son, and their money minting awry schemes.
It inspired a fish-and-chips shop called Sonford Fish & Chips that is still, thankfully, up on Moi Avenue.
Because of a tendency to operate on 24-hour shifts, Sonford became that legendary place, full of CBD crowds at lunchtime, and at 1.32 am, with passersby from night clubs, university students en route to campus, and even the odd camper with no fare, awaiting the dawn on a Sonford stool.
It is believed, because of the occasional pick-up, to be the place where the phrase ‘chips funga’ came from – so that to be ‘chipo’d’ in urban parlance simply means to be picked up for a one-night stand.
Legends like Mue and Shishi have told tales of ‘Sonford Fish and Chips.’
Mue said, “We were in Second Year UoN and me and my study buddy were hungry as hell, with only dough for fries, so we go to Sonford. Kidogo kidogo, a ka high couple checks in, makes order, sits next to us to kula, but they are already arguing.
“Lady storms out, guy follows her, and they leave behind bhajia and a whole kuku unwrapped and uneaten. I tell you that is the day I joined C.U., knowing there is manna from heaven.”
Shishi recalls coming from the Blankets & Wine festival, she and her girlfriends high as kites after a day of drinking white wine.
“We bought munchies at Sonford, got home in a pack, but were too tired, so we passed out. Asubuhi we patad our pal’s cats have had quite a feast. They had finished all the kuku and fish for us – but kindly left us chips tatu and those tu-white oily paper wrappers on the table, for us to eat if we want.”
On the bottom end of Moi Avenue from Sonford, like an unchanging god, stands the building Gill House.
It is still surrounded by matatus, as it has been for eons, so nostalgic Nairobians will find solace in this.
Urban planners like Constant Cap, though, constantly carp about the lack of ‘multi-modal mobility options’ within the city centre, leading to the shrinkage of its circumference as a conference of (CBD) businesses.
‘Businesses have moved out of the CBD perimeter, and are moving out further into the city peripheries, because we do not have bike-paths, safe pedestrian walkways along highways or even efficient PT (Public Transport),’ caps the city’s situation.
“Only when middle classes stop thinking walking, biking and PSV are for poor people will we solve congestion in the city.” A perfect case study of this would be Munich.
Yet when the last chaotic lines at Railway Station go, where Nairobi was first seeded when the Lunatic Line got delayed there (for lack of British funding), there will still be someone nostalgic for city mayhem.
“It is quiet like a cemetery,” a grandchild will be told.
“This city, the ‘N’ in Nairobi was for NOISE. Ke-le-le!”
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