Middle-class estate at the Coast is where the party’s at.
It is nearing morning on a Saturday and Bamburi in Mombasa is jammed with avid party-goers.
For these people, the party is getting on from Friday evening. In the more than 10 nightclubs concentrated in a distance of two football pitches, music is booming from each, some are playing reggae, others rhumba, house, hip hop or trap.
Mid Saturday, the crescendo slows down and by evening, partying picks up until Sunday. Every weekend, the cycle starts on Friday when nightclubs get fully packed and partying flows outside to the open spaces. The densely-populated town with apartments sprouting almost every month is Mombasa's newest entertainment spot.
The bars that have proliferated in the middle class area cater for different tastes, attracting from lawyers to doctors visiting the tourist city. Young women also hang around, skimpily dressed.
Benson Maina, who lives in Bamburi and is a party animal says there has been a big change in the area.
“I came to Bamburi when it was all bush. Our only pride then was the Bamburi Cement factory but now most people know this place because of the nightlife,” he says.
The town has now attracted banks, shopping centres and supermarket chains.
He says he prefers to visit entertainment spots which are a stone's throw away from his house because they offer variety.
“In Bamburi, you can choose the club you will visit depending on what you want. New ones are also coming up. Clubs might be more than the shops,’’ says Mr Maina.
Club owners have invested heavily to give the entertainment spots a very plush look. Sky Lounge, one of the flashy clubs, is housed on two-storeys.
Caleb Mwangi, the general manager says the nightclub sells a concept of catering for both the young and older customers, offering them good food, assorted music and affordable alcohol.
“They are two types of people who come to our club and yet they're unlikely to hang out in one place. So we have the older generation on the ground floor, who come to listen to rhumba. Then the young and more wild generation is on the upper floor. They can dance and won’t interfere with the old people,’’ he says.
Opened four years ago, the club is one of biggest with a capacity of 700 people.
“Nightlife used to thrive in the central business district but then it died down and now it has shifted to Bamburi. Most people live in Bamburi anyway. There is no need for a person to go all the way to town or Mtwapa and yet they sleep here,” he says.
The most expensive alcoholic drink at Sky Lounge costs around Sh9,500.
‘‘We depend on people who are not necessarily very high-income earners,’’Mr Maina says, adding that they get tidy profits from the high numbers of people who come to Mombasa especially for leisure or business conferences.
Mr Mwangi estimates that millions of shillings went into making the club and the owner plans to build 200 rooms and a conference centre so that visitors can work and have fun in one spot.
To woo more customers, some of the clubs change decorations every so often to suit different themes.
“The decorations also have huge cost implications but we have to invest to woo people. For instance, during the World Cup, the club was full of flags and one was going for around Sh2,500,” says Mr Mwangi.
A few meters from Sky Lounge is Shots Bar which has since expanded to accommodate more people.
Harvin Gershom, the entertainment manager says the booming entertainment scene in Bamburi is taking business from other places such as Mtwapa which were thriving a few years ago.
‘‘In 2016, I think we only had two to three clubs in Bamburi. But now they are so many and they all get full that you have to come early to get a seat,’’ he says.
To attract more customers, the clubs sell seafood and grilled meats and they have invested heavily in music systems and interior décor.
“We bought a sound system worth Sh4.5 million and which is serviced every three days. We plan to change the interior décor to have an African touch. We also invite international musicians or guest deejays. Last week, we had the official Diamond Platnumz deejay from Tanzania. End of this month, another one is coming,” Mr Gershom says.
Next to Shots Bar is Thrills Tavern Bar and Restaurant. Then there is Samba Sports Bar which has opened a second club on the same street. Another new entrant is the Mint Lounge Bamburi. Other joints include Drips Bamburi, Masters and Club Sippers.
Charles Ndambo, a manager at the Summit Grill (VOK) which has eight TV screens for soccer lovers says such additions have scaled up Mombasa's nightlife.
“Years ago, Mombasa used to have small clubs such as Borabora, Casablanca and Bobs but now investors are investing in large areas with better music. People love the good food, good music and ample parking,’’he says.
Despite the high number of party-goers opting for Bamburi, there are a few others who visit new clubs in the central business district.
Klub Zero 4 on Moi Avenue opened recently with showy interiors. During the interview, Carter Kavuti, the entertainment manager, kept referring to the club as fresh.
The VIP lounge has cozy leather seats, curtains and the disco lights spew the wordings ‘zero 4.’
“We are bringing the posh concept to the Mombasa entertainment scene. The VIP section doesn't attract extra costs. We plan to build a bar in the VIP lounge,’’ says Mr Kavuti.
Sam Ikwaye, the Kenya Association of Hotel-keepers and Caterers coast branch executive officer says to compete globally, variety, regulation, high standards and quality should be addressed.
“There are many clubs but if you go to Las Vegas in the US, besides you sleeping well the nightlife is very nice devoid of insecurity,” he says.
Thomas Omondi, a deejay whose stage name is DJ T walker and who plays in Nairobi, Eldoret and Nakuru says a club that has ample parking lot like Danka in Mtwapa still attracts people because they are sure that their cars are safe.
“But Mtwapa is dying because we have not been able to regulate liquor bars and mnazi. And every other place is selling liquor. What that means is that the destination looks scattered,’’ he says.