By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
Disclaimer: In my other life I am a House Music impresario and my foundation in House was built at two legendary dance clubs: Odell’s and Paradox.
I’ve also clubbed extensively in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles; my pedigree is inescapable. Therefore, I may not be the most forgiving judge of the 2019 club scene because I’ve been so spoiled over the years.
However, a hot party is a hot party; that is a truism from West Baltimore to East Africa. And I am here to report that Kampala has legitimately earned the title of “The Party Capital of East Africa.”
Over the course of five days (Sept. 11 to Sept. 15) I partied at four of the hottest clubs in Kampala: The Sky Lounge, Bubbles O’Leary, Guvnor and Cayenne and none of them disappointed.
The first thing that really blew me away about the four clubs I experienced was the size; they are all massive. But, they were all also very clean, with staff members who were very attentive.
The Sky Lounge, near the Acacia Mall (the top mall in Kampala), features a panoramic view of the vast Kampala metropolitan area. I arrived at Sky Lounge a bit early and consequently, I also dipped a bit early, so I didn’t really get the full flavor of the club.
However, that same night I seemed to arrive at Bubbles O’Leary right on time. The kinetic energy of the crowd seemed almost insatiable. The crowd at Bubbles, which was the most diverse of the four clubs, also revealed (from my male perspective) one of the most compelling aspects of the Kampala party scene; it is comprised largely of myriad beautiful women of every hue and ethnicity, but most indigenous African.
My friend Scott Paynter, the very talented lead singer of Jah Works, the Baltimore based, internationally recognized Reggae band, pulled my coat to the Kampala club scene from 9,000 miles away via Facebook. He is the one who recommended I experience Guvnor.
“Lots of beautiful Ugandan and Rwandan women up inna Guvnor,” wrote Paynter, who has performed in Uganda.
Scotty P. ain’t never lied.
On Saturday night, groups of lovely young women (and a few men), all of them African streamed through the doors of Guvnor starting around 11 p.m., to party in large rooms with a variety of musical themes. The genres ranged from Hip Hop, to Reggae to R&B, to even a spattering of Disco.
On Sunday nights, Cayenne is the place to be in Kampala. The musical format is pretty much the same at all the clubs (which is a challenge to club purists/snobs like me). But, each club has a very distinct energy. At Bubbles, the flavor is more international, while Guvnor is dominated more by indigenous Africans. At Cayenne, the vibe is more relaxed with kind of a Western (American) type flow; reserved tables filled with the children of wealthy Ugandans, who take a lot of selfies. Cayenne is so decadent (in a benevolent way) there is even a large swimming pool in one part of the club and it wasn’t just for show, people frolicked in the water for most of the night.
There is something for just about all the party people in Kampala, except a pure House music experience for old House Headz like me.
But, the reality is the Kampala club experience is quintessential of the worldwide party scene; the doors open at around 9 p.m., and the good times don’t shut down until the morning hours around 8 a.m. Some of the clubs even go into the afternoon, like the New York scene back in the day.
Bottom line is if you want to party, no matter where you come from, Kampala is clearly the place to be.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.