City Nights: Nairobi

Shishi Wanj works as a DJ, writer, curator and model, and is passionate about being part of the creative community in her hometown of Nairobi. 

“Nightlife is important to Nairobians because we live in a very stressful city.

It’s hard and chaotic, so we see dancing and laughter as a sense of release or a purge.

It’s our time to finally stop thinking for a minute, to dance the night away and have fun with friends.”

When I picture nights in Nairobi it’s with dancing, laughter… and a lot of drinks

“There is a lot of club-hopping because there’s so much to do in the city. I like to joke that Covid switched our brains up because I feel like people party a lot harder now than they used to. I think that’s from the cabin fever of that time and making the most of being out again. And there is now a lot more intentional support for creative events.”

You might want to go to ten shows in one weekend

“… and you wonder how to go to all of them. We are more intentional about showing up for artists because we really understood their value during the pandemic because we missed it. People want to attend events, to support artists or organise and connect people.”

Dancing till the sun rises at The Alchemist, The Kenya Rooftop and The Mist

We have a reputation as a party city

“We have lots of ‘underground’ or cool places – right now the cool kids, up and coming artists and DJs go to The Mist, Shelter, The Alchemist and The Kenya Rooftop to see experiments in dancing, sound and visuals. Most of the clubs and events usually take place in the Westlands area.” 

Bars close at 2am but the party continues…

“Oh yes, yes. I could send you some videos! When people come to the city they are like: “Oh my goodness!” And then they want to stay longer. Our parties start at 6pm with our pre-game of dinner or a local drink, then it’s on to a club, which are packed by midnight. Then it can continue on and on and on and on. Until it’s daylight. We definitely have a reputation for lots and lots of dancing and lots and lots of partying and music that keeps us together and up and alive! Nairobi is a party city.”

We have a lot of creative artists in the city

“There are so many people who don’t want to work in an office, they want to be musicians, rappers, set designers or promoters and it’s natural that then leads to us all thinking, let’s create a good time for people. The party scene is a fusion of both a natural release, but also an expression of what people can do. We’re now seeing the next generation after the Nu Nairobi scene from 2015 – and these up and coming artists also know how to grow and reach global audiences, helping the outdated assumptions of what Kenyan music/art should look and sound to rapidly fade off.”

If I can describe Nairobi in three words… “Vibrant. Bold. Gritty.”

To delve into more city life read City Limits, our series of pieces exploring the urban experience here.