Wild cruise at Cruz 24 Lounge

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“Do we not read the Business Daily, us who live in Eastlands?” A reader emailed me, “Is this not elitism to focus on the same bars in the same areas? Why don’t you get out of your comfort zone like a real journalist?” I was stung. I wanted to write back and tell him, “but I’m not a real journalist, I’m a writer!” Instead, I made calls which landed me at Cruz 24 Lounge and bar at Greenspan Mall in Donholm, Nairobi.

First thing you notice; the waiters and waitresses all dress up as pilots with strips on their sleeves. Very sexy. The walls are bricks and if you look outside the large windows across the road, a cluster of flats lurch towards the sky in a wild concrete dance. If you don’t like rhumba music don’t go.

This is not the home of rhumba music, this is its cradle. Some of the small bones of rhumba maestros are buried underneath Cruz 24.

I grew up listening to rhumba, thanks to my dad, so I think I thought I knew my rhumba but Cruz 24 quickly humbled me. The world out there is full of great rhumba songs that I wasn’t even aware of. I discovered Jossart N’Yoka Longo, for instance, who upon inquiry I was told was the lead singer at Zaiko Langa Langa. Consequently, I have been playing nothing but his song, Yaka M, in my car this week. My blood group is Yaka M. I also discovered Roga Roga who I had initially thought was a show by the Blackest Man in Africa. I’m now aware that I’m ignorant of rhumba and should humbly sit down. Thanks to DJ Reagan.

Unbeknownst to me, it also happened to be Musa Juma’s 13th anniversary, so they played his songs and I - not so acquainted with his music - was surprised at how a legend this man was because everybody seemed to sing all his songs word for word.

At the end I realised I didn’t go to a bar, I went to a Rhumba masterclass which DJ Reagan had earlier started by breathing into the microphone, “vile tunafanyanga ndio tutafanya” to a whoop from the revellers. Then it was a wild cruise from then on: singing, dancing and swaying…a spiritual trance of rhumba.

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