When I was growing up in the 20 Century, I learnt about a very interesting thing called “retro.” Retro happens when what was once hip and had been discarded is rediscovered by a new generation looking in old closets and drawers of parents and guardians.
This concept was first introduced to me when there was variety show at a local high school with the theme “The 70's.” “A variety show” in those days was an event, usually done over weekends and held either at school or in a church where young people would come for a variety of events which would entertain them.
This event was very cool as everyone was supposed to come through dressed in bell bottom trousers and platform boots from two decades previously. The music at the event incorporated the sounds of Kool and The Gang, The Commodores, Earth Wind and Fire, Diana Ross and more. Listening to this music was quite a thrill for some of us as we were used to wearing baggy pants like a much loved MC Hammer and Timberland boots or Doc Martens for those who could afford it. The preferred music was by the aforementioned MC Hammer, Whitney Houston, Joe Public, Kris Kross and Tupac Shakur. In those days, sadly we had been brainwashed to believe that music was only that which featured on US and UK charts.
It was quaint when I was dancing to songs like 'Celebration' by Kool and The Gang and did like the oldies that were my parents who at the time I saw as old as Methuselah. After all, in my teenage mind anyone who was 30-years-old must very close to the grave.
I would have never thought the shoe would be on the other foot until very recently. It started when I noted that there was suddenly an upsurge of “1990s retro nights” in town. At the beginning, it was only DJ Adrian who had specialised in that period in our lives but now you will hear that there is a new event at your nearby lounge.
But there are many other signs that the 1990s as retro is with us in a big way. This week, we saw a huge downpour of rain that nearly washed away Nairobi city to the county that is the place to be that is Machakos. I know that with the way we design our city, building on river banks and clogging our roads, then this shouldn't be a huge surprise. However, the huge flood that engulfed our town in actual fact reminded me of the El Nino weather phenomenon of 1997/8 which traumatised us as a society. The only thing that was more scary thing for a Nairobian when the rain started coming down as they went home, was the dreaded Nairobi fly that was known to burn skin. This was because Kenyans would leave work at five as usual and the lucky ones would get home at midnight. I would be too surprised to learn that people learnt to stay out after work at this short period.
Its not just the weather conditions that are making the 1990s return to our subconscious. The ruling party of the country has a delicious bird as its party symbol; I know that in those days it was a rooster and today it is a dove but they are both birds and both very edible. And while we are still talking about the leadership system the same people who were running the country in that distant time were recently announced to run our country's parastatals. So the same Major Marsden Madokas, Julius Sunkulis and Richard Leakeys are leading the organisations at the same level that they were two decades ago. Does it get more retro than this?
Its not just in the big things that the make me realise that the 1990s have returned in a big way. Even in the small things its a sort of return of the old days. The price of beer in those days went up steadily from Shs12 up towards Sh20 to the chagrin of the people who were buying the product. We have the same kind of a problem as we have only added a zero at the end of the beer price. Now the price has been steadily moving up from Sh150 towards Sh200 and those who need that product are suffering.
Venue review: El Paso Garden and Lounge, Langata Road
I saw the effects first hand of the changes in Langata Road the other Friday when I went to visit El Paso Lounge which used to be called HQ. When I went there, the place looked like it was deserted and I had to find a staff member to get to the front entrance. When I made it in I was a bit put aback as this place isn't great for those who might have wheelchairs.
When I made it through a corridor I made it to this room which was covered from the elements but still had the outside climate featuring. At the centre there was a square counter with a bar man there serving drinks to whoever came in. I made my way to that counter and asked for my cold beer which came to Sh200.
As I settled to drink my deserved beer, it had been one of those weeks, I looked around me. The bar was redone last year and looks fresher than it did in the HQ days. Around the counter there were many chairs and tables which one could hopefully sit and drink for many hours with friends. Above the counter there was a TV playing highlights of the forthcoming games in the English premier league over the weekend. This told me that sports fanatics would be comfortable over the weekend.
To the right of the entrance there was a DJ playing some music in a DJ booth.
As I continued looking around I noted something very disturbing; I was alone. It was Friday night and I was sitting alone at a counter in bar in Nairobi. Everyone who was around me was a member of staff of the establishment. I asked the barman, a very friendly fellow although it can't have been hard with only one punter to deal with, where everyone was. He told me something about there having been threats of rain which didn't sound very convincing from where I was sitting.
A quick recap of the venue;
Good: Decent décor and service, clean washrooms, sports for the fanatics
Bad: Disability unfriendly, no clearly marked emergency exits
My verdict: A very quiet place to have a drink; ideal when the whole world has filled bars up the road and one needs to have a nice cold solitary beer.