A few weeks ago I attended a funeral. It was a neighbor who had “kicked the bucket” (this is the English Mr. Oyieke taught us in class 8 to euphemistically say that one had died). This was the second funeral I was attending at night in the last two months.

No place for rhumba crew
I walked into the venue clad in my blue baseball jacket, the hood on & clutching tightly onto my kaduda in my left hand trouser pocket. You see you never know when someone decides to transfer ownership of such a gadget. The funeral looks the same like ones we used to attend with my brother 15 years back except for the electric bulbs hang on every tree in the tiny homestead. How on earth do you daylight a whole compound at night? There was no place for the “rhumba” crew. The dance floor was all in glaring 100 watts bulb dominance. The music playing was something between riddims & some noisy third grade dj mixes. On the dance floor was some “age drop outs” (teens who think are adults) clad in pencil.

The right attire

Things have really changed. At Disco Matanga one had to put on a heavy coat, big hat or a marvin covering the whole head save for the part of face. The wardrobe was never complete without a club or jembe handle and some sizable rocks in the long coats pockets. Carrying some chisels (6 inch nails hammered flat and sharpened at one end) was also a necessity for close self defence. Brawls were part of funeral nights. These attires only surfaced at night. Today, the boys put on man u t-shirts and Nike sports shoes. You may think they are going to cheer Willy Paul dancing while lipsing his shallow lyrics. 

Funeral Procession

Funeral Procession In Western Kenya. Photo/Courtesy

National star DJ

Business thrived during Disco Matanga. My bro and i would at some moment be the DJs and also sell cigarettes on the sides (this was 15 years ago. Back then we had not met Jesus.) There was no pay in being a dj back then unlike today. You only needed to be friends. The dj kit was a double deck National Star or Sony radio cassette. Fading in and out music from deck 1 to 2 was one heroic experience!

But the ultimate challenge came in when you had to change over to another genre of music. Roots, dancehall reggae & soukous were the order of the day. Some Jacob Luseno would also do in early hours (between 8-10pm). But after 10pm it was all lucky Dube, Yondo Sister, General Defao, Senzo, Eric Donaldson, Glen Washington, Awilo Longomba, Arlus Marbele & the likes. The techno soukous was taking over the dance floor.

Watchman kando
The DJ music was never the only entertainment. The rhumba crew was never absent. Their signature bhang smoking session before the night’s performance announced their presence. This group stationed itself in a dark corner of the homestead. Their ensemble included: a rugged guitar, metal gong, shakers, an empty 20 litres jerican (acted as the bass resonator) & instrumentalists. A bench for the instrumentalist to sit on completed the set. The dance would be merry go round the instrumentalists. “watchman kando” was a warning for sideline watchers to join the chain or keep off!
How things have changed today!


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