Unique, local flair: How MUZE put Nairobi's nightlife on the electronic music map - Features - Mixmag

Unique, local flair: How MUZE put Nairobi's nightlife on the electronic music map

As MUZE celebrates its fifth annivesary, co-founder Willie Gichora reflects on growing a world-class party in the Kenyan capital and representing electronic sounds from across Africa

  • Gemma Ross
  • 6 December 2023

Functions is our interview series profiling the best parties from across the world. This instalment we meet: MUZE.

Born out of a necessity to showcase Kenya’s exploding electronic music scene in 2018, Nairobi-based nightclub and party series MUZE has always had its ears to the ground when celebrating African dance music. Five years since its inception, MUZE has developed into a consistent host of world-class club nights known to locals and outsiders alike, flaunting a hefty spread of top-tier DJs and, what MUZE co-founder Willie Gichora dubs, “the best Funktion-One setup in Africa”.

Starting out as a space for Nairobi’s burgeoning Afro house community, MUZE now throws it all into the pot when it comes to genre. Every Afrodiasporic sound gets a play, Willie claims, from amapiano to AfroTech, dancehall to the up-and-coming sound of 3 step. So far, in its short five years, MUZE has hosted the likes of Black Coffee, Fred P, and Black Motion, always staying one step ahead when it comes to new sounds.

With an intimate, 400-capacity club, MUZE has also expanded beyond the reaches of the traditional club space, organising one-day, open-air events at a nearby rooftop in the heart of Nairobi. MUZE is even looking to pursue a new venture in South Africa’s Cape Town in the very near future.

Ahead of MUZE’s fifth birthday, we chatted with co-founder Willie Gichora about the venue and party series' pioneering role in Nairobi's nightlife and plans to keep building. Check it out below.

How did MUZE come about?

Five years ago, Federico and I met and co-founded MUZE as the first venue and nightclub dedicated to electronic music in Nairobi, having seen the potential in the city's burgeoning electronic music scene and artists.

What’s the idea behind the name?

The name 'MUZE' was inspired by our desire to create a venue/nightclub that could serve as an inspiration to everyone in the African music scene by showcasing that it’s possible to create a world-class electronic music brand in Africa and from Africa.

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MUZE turns five this month, how do the club nights look now in comparison to the early editions?

Our club nights have evolved tremendously since we opened, and the events have become more organic. At first, due to inexperience, things were rigid, but over time MUZE has developed its own unique culture in the set times, bookings, setups, and bar culture, which has given the club the je ne sais quoi and personality that has made it endure all these years and into the future.

What kind of music is getting a spin at MUZE? Are there any typical genres or sounds?

At first, Afro house was the dominant genre, then MUZE made a conscious effort to represent the wide array of music and producers that Africa has on offer across various electronic music genres. More recently, the deeper tech-house genres have risen and we’ve even seen 3 step starting to take hold.

Tell us about some particular standout moments from MUZE parties over the years...

If I had to pick, a few come to mind after five years (in no particular order):

1. Black Motion at MUZE in 2019, our first "big" party and one of the most memorable we've had so far; it was pure Afro house magic, LIVE!

2. Francis Mercier's first performance at MUZE Club. It was part of an African tour route we were pioneering that weekend between Nairobi, Kenya, and Cape Town, South Africa. He created an extraordinary energy on the dancefloor that remains unmatched.

3. Black Coffee in 2021 at MUZE OPEN AIR - it was a great way to usher in the post-lockdown period, and was a show to bring everyone out of the pandemic and back into social life.

4. El Mukuka; he has performed at MUZE a few times but his most recent performance in 2023 for the release of his debut album was really special for us to see how the club can work as a stepping stone for Africa's electronic music talent.

5. FNX Omar at MUZE Open Air in 2021. A strike by airline pilots didn't stop us from bringing FNX Omar to Kenya, and when he finally arrived, he gave such a memorable and extra-long performance that left the crowd breathless and mesmerised!

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What qualities do you think MUZE brings to the Kenyan clubbing scene?

Vision, ambition, and global recognition… and the best Funktion-One club setup in Africa.

How have you seen the electronic music scene in Nairobi grow since you launched MUZE?

I have seen the scene grow from niche and obscure to groundbreaking and genre-defining with more people interested in electronic music and the development of a unique, local flair and culture.

How do you go about selecting your line-ups? What does the booking process look like?

We look at an artist's history in the genre, quality, and quantity of productions, and their unique technical or performance skills. We try to manage the requests from artists with our own goals and objectives while maintaining certain relationships and remaining open to new and emerging talent and genres.

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If you could select a dream line-up for the next MUZE event, who’s on your list?

The best contemporary African electronic music DJs are always on our list, but we are looking for more opportunities to work with artists in the diaspora as we set ourselves as a global hub of African and diaspora-based electronic artists and producers.

What's coming up next for MUZE?

We’re looking at renovations of MUZE’s Nairobi club, and opening a new MUZE venue in Cape Town, South Africa. We’re also looking to expand our diversity and inclusion initiatives and bring new event concepts and nights.

Follow MUZE on Instagram

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

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