Club Johnie Bar and Lounge, Rumba Extravaganza: We Were All Here Before!

Posted: March 31, 2015 in Music, Opinion
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I found it always a shame that African music interest often stays associated with the usual form of Highlife genre defining this often as the true sound of Africa. Last friday, Johnie Bar and lounge in Haruma’s John saga area showed us something else. Every Friday they take us back to the 70s in an extraordinary show dubbed Rumba extravaganza, where they get to play pure rumba and lingala music.although here we call this kind of music ‘Lingala’, but really Lingala is the language. In Europe and other parts they call it ‘Soukous’ but whatever you call it, it’s unmistakable. The moment you hear those tingling guitars, you can not help standing and start dancing.

I personally always like African music from the 80s to late 90s, which was largely dominated by rumba and lingala but its sad nowadays it rarely finds enough playtime sessions in public places. Luckily this Johnie Bar and lounge is, finally, one of the exceptions. I wasn’t here before. Located in a residential area from the noisy city center, it struck me that I should come to Haruma’s Johnie Bar and Lounge  more often.

The host of the night is Dj Moht dressed in a baggy clothing and sporting cornrows, Dj Moht knows just what the audience wants. No one in the audience is here for anything but the music and the will to cultivate spirit.

The concert stretches on for more than two hours but no one even remembers they’re wearing a watch. There’s 30 minutes of encore, as the Dj stunningly moves through electrifying versions of hits and album cuts from Tabu Ley, to Tshala Mwana, from Mbilia Bel, to Franco, Sam Mangwana,Musa Juma, Nyboma, Wuta Mayi,Les Quatre Etoiles and who forgets Koffi Olomide with his ndombolo. Steaming hot mamas marauds the dance floor, bouncing off the walls, dissolving time and space and bodies. After a long stretch, there’s demand for more, and we get it in the form of Pepe Kalle’s 90s band ‘Empire Bakuba and the song that no one will leave without hearing, Kanda Bongo Man’s “Kwasa kwasa” One by one, the the men leave the dance floor and peel off into their seats until it’s just the ladies alone on stage, shaking their blessings to the amazement of the now tipsy men in the building. All that’s left is the powerful current connecting the Dj and his rapt Johnie Bar and Lounge ladies on the dance floor, the way they zungusha their limbs it is like they have katika at the waist.

Later in the morning, Stepping out into the cold corporate air of Nairobi, the Rumba night extravaganza, like any shows of the 90s was bulwark: it is a reminder that music’s ability to bring people together to celebrate soulful feeling is in and of itself, as Tabu Ley once remarked, a weapon of the future. I set to leave Johnie Bar and Lounge but deep down in my heart, a voice assures myself. I’ll be back. Next Friday!


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