Kigali, dead by night

Kgl party
Partying with Mamba’s owner John Cox. Photo: David Berg

One thing you’ve gotta know about me is that I take my night life seriously. So seriously that I wouldn’t waste a second if it doesn’t lead to rocking the boat on the dance floor. I love to partyyyyyy!!! I’ve been partying for a while now but if you need a reference time, let’s say when Cadillac, Planet, Black & White, and B Club were banging. I know some OG’s who’ve been killing it way before when Cercle, Cassablanca, Kigali Night were the bomb! About 6 years ago, I remember publishing a list of my favorite hangouts with weekly activities around Kigali. 

Now all we have left is discriminating Cocobean and shitty People (the club) and everything else that operate long hours being worse. Cocobean and People should date each other. Hopefully they would drown or set each other on fire because, you know, absurdity can be quite a passion.
It hasn’t always been this way, though. Ariko when I try to connect the dots as to how we got in this predicament, it’s kind of vague. Things fell apart gradually, systematically though. I don’t know the why but I have an idea about the how. In my observation, I think it all started with a party in Kicukiro organized by graduates from La Colombiere high school in 2006. Not only this party was shut down but it was raided by police and everyone was jailed. Word on the street had it that some children of some “very, very, very, very, very important” personalities in this country had attended the party without their parents’ consent. To fix the problem, police applied a very interesting method that can be compared to burning down your neighborhood because of a mosquito bugging you in your room. I must be the one exaggerating here. Basically everyone who attended the party spent some time in jail. I’m glad I was not at the party but I’m also sad that I missed the party. I mean if you can party till you end in a cell, you must be a party animal for real.
The reason why I said it all started with this party is because from then, you had to seek approval from local authorities to throw a house party. We laughed about it, as we usually do about everything, but now look at us. The police can shut down any party, any time, anywhere, confiscate sound equipment and jail the deejay with no need to explain anything. It’s that watchu-gonna-do-about-it-nigga attitude. And it works for them. So well that they thought “Hmm let’s apply it to professional events, bars, motels, hotels, and why not churches? In the end people will have no source of entertainment and everybody will be happy MWAHAHAHAHA”

This is Rwanda. You wake up one morning, your gate is suspended because there’s a new road at the edge of your fence. You try to drive home from work and realize a new one-way sign out of nowhere. You come back and it’s facing the opposite direction. It happens over and over with no explanation. Eventually you give up. After all the government cares for your well-being, right? Police is only enforcing the law. Like this law.

statement 1.JPG

The funny part about this law is that the phrase “noise pollution” does not exist in Rwanda’s penal code. You have quite some entries on pollution but none is related to sound or noise. And, you only have one “noise” entry.

noise pollution.JPG

art 600

And about that article 600, define “noise”, define “disturbance.” When does music become noise? Please explain because we’re suffering way too much over this “noise pollution” ghost law. And what makes the neighbor’s sleep more important than the money being injected in the economy and the dozens of jobs created overnight? Can you answer that dear Rwandan National Police? I understand they need their quiet time but I also need my loud time? How do we co-exist? Apparently the solution is to soundproof everything. But here’s the thing. Most of pubs in Rwanda operate within houses that were not designed for that purpose. They are made to be homes. And, you will notice this if you pay attention to the facts that there is usually only one bathroom (barely working), a bar occupying half of what was meant to be the living room… Soundproofing these homes to turn them into pubs means shutting down windows and doors, which help with ventilation because the places are relatively small; it means setting up air conditioning systems, acoustic roofs and walls among a few things. And when you thought that solved the issues, old pubs have become night clubs in residential areas. Oh and that means there will be a good increment in prices. Do I need to remind that the way our bank accounts are set up, we currently sip beers with a toothpick? Anyway I don’t want to be in a tiny night at 7pm. You’ll turn people into alcoholics. I want to enjoy the beautiful sky and view of the city, inhale fresh air and laugh with my people. So I don’t believe in soundproofing as a solution, as a consumer.

Now as an artist and cultural entrepreneur, if you can survive, it’s impossible to thrive in Kigali. I repeat impossible under the conditions stated above. Many artists before me, with more charisma and talent have invested for a long time only to see their dreams reduced to powder by government through its regulations and absolute lack of support. It is so bad that many had to leave and give up on their talent to become slaves of western colonies. Like I said in Real Talk “Go hard, go home or find your way to exile, this art industry isn’t designed for artists to survive.” How am I still standing does not matter. It is only a matter of time, in this part of the world because at the end of the day, everyone has a breaking point. So you see, dear Rwandan Police, your vague regulations are a hindrance to our existence as cultural entrepreneurs.

The world has more than 195 countries. This is the land that chose us. We chose it back. All we want to add some colors and smiley faces on it. But you don’t want to hear that, do you? Don’t make us hate what we love because we will hate you instead, and therefore hate ourselves. We’re wasting such a beautiful space. When the sun is not up to remind you, the moon does.

Can I help? Sure. By all means I will help you fix the problem that you created by making me the problem in the first place. Life and its ironies. That’s why I accepted the invitation to sit with the head of tourism in Rwanda Development Board (RDB), along with few surviving event organizers, artists and cultural entrepreneurs, to discuss How to Improve Night Life Experience in Rwanda because Kigali cannot allow itself to be a boring city that intends to accommodate tourists. Suddenly because we’re talking tourism, boredom does not make sense huh? Hypocrites! But guess what I’m a sweet citizen and I will help. Meanwhile please tell police that being professional does not mean parading with fingers on their triggers through crowds of people consuming alcohol. Guns and booze don’t get along well. Rather ask them for clear laws and regulations, standards (tools, measures), reporting mechanisms, procedures and most importantly to be accountable.
Truth-folie yours,
1key 😉


4 thoughts on “Kigali, dead by night

  1. Oooh my!, deep, sad and from the loins . Government has never come out clear on this. Artists, event managers and the shrinking creative sector are all at cross-roads.
    Even when police is at work, am worried about the survival of event’s business.
    Those guns are horrifying-in social places, strange!

  2. It’s really embarrassing; I have experienced this on several occasions. Policemen walk in the middle of the crowd attentively following a live band and shutdown every instrument carry some of them and a manager locked in. Kigali isn’t boring but the police make it look so….

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