The east-African city of Nairobi seems to not just be the capital of Kenya, but the capital of the coolest music and fashion coming out of the continent. When we came across the Nairobi-based collective, Cosmic Homies, we were completely wowed by their stunning output of golden hip hop and smooth jams.
The multi-cultural art and music collective of producers, MCs and DJs, are at the absolute heart of Nairobi’s contemporary scene; what they call ‘NuNairobi’. Members TAIO, Marushka, Runkah and Kiwango, put out gorgeous EPs, throw parties, make videos and other art, and are launching a brand new weekly podcast, to showcase the amazing variety of Kenyan and African artists.
They are opening up the world to Kenya’s emerging and eclectic music scene and so we are absolutely thrilled to feature their super vibrant city guide for Nairobi.
Check out the map above and interview below for Cosmic Homies’ favourite spots, while you listen to a 100% Nairobi mix.
Favourite place to buy records?
“We Love Vinyl” – A monthly meetup where local record lovers hang, eat, drink, buy & swap records. Fascinating finds & true friends! “What we do on theses meet ups is spread our vinyl all over the place and ogle it while we listen to great music.” – We Love Vinyl, Nairobi
Favourite live music venue?
Choices is an infamous Nairobi music venue, whose pub/restaurant events demonstrate a genuine love for music across all genres. Cultivating an environment that is focused mainly towards listening to music, rather than just getting drunk & treating performers like background noise… Choices is a top contender for a live music venue that prioritizes true artistry.
Best sound system/favourite club?
By far the best balance of high-quality sound & a wonderful setting and atmosphere will be found at The Alchemist Bar. Whilst located in Nairobi’s prime nightlife area, with the bar’s entrance positioned on a main road, the bar itself is tucked away behind a collection of epic trees with exquisite views of the moon. This creates a feeling of buzzing secrecy and even though the bar is frequently full, the guests are rarely strangers.
Food trucks and a host of other cuisine options are offered, along with two full bars, a permanent tattoo parlour and weekly arts/entertainments focused events. The sound is curated by top notch audio production studio Motion Image & Sound. Amazing sound set-ups are rare in Nairobi, but considering these guys are the official East African distributors of Belgium’s top level tech company, AudioFocus, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone with better sound-gear and sonic skills than MIS. Together, MIS & The Alchemist Bar are revolutionising Kenya’s live music culture.
Best party in the city?
Nairobi is a city of party-obsessed people! Events happen not only every weekend but also throughout the week. In fact… we just heard that a global tourism poll declared Nairobi the “turn up town” of Africa?? We can’t argue with that! They occur so frequently and in such a variety of forms, that to choose one is impossible. Your best bet is to pop into town and see what’s happening that week!
Best outdoor party/place to listen to music outdoors?
Much of Kenya’s culture takes place outdoors, due to the fact that we are typically blessed with wonderful weather. Events hosted at Live At The Elephant are particularly lovely, with hay barrels set on a large green lawn, kikoy blankets and fully stocked outdoor bars. Founded by a well known Kenyan musician, Eric Wainaina, Live At The Elephant plays host to some of the city’s best live music performances.
For a larger space with incomparably lush surroundings, try Purdy Arms – a converted colonional home from the 1950’s which has since become a beloved B&B with fine diving & fun events every day of the week.
Best festivals in or near Nairobi?
Blankets & Wine has featured incredible international headliners in the past, such as Aloe Blacc, Estelle & Jojo Abot. The one day festival takes place outside on rolling grassy hills with food tents, clothing vendors and artist installations.
Nyege Nyege is a recently established festival in Jinja, Uganda that welcomes an international roster of amazing underground/alternative artists to gather for 3 days by the Nile River, with two stages, on site camping and stalls vending food, art, clothing, etc. Cosmic Homies had the honor of performing there this September alongside our fellow Nairobians. We were all blessed with undoubtedly transformational experiences.
Best view of the city?
There are many views of the city from fancy penthouses and top floor restaurants that will likely take the cake, but as far as the most fun and inspiring place to view the city we’ll have to say the rooftop of PAWA 254. Known as a hub for youth and creativity, focused toward social impact, PAWA 254 is a buzzing artist oasis in the midst of our bustling city. With computers, bean bag chairs, vibrant art, a conference room, auditorium, graffiti room and rooftop, likewise covered in culturally poignant street art, this 360 degree view of the city is sweetened by the inspirational ethos and community founded by artist andactivist Boniface Mwangi. Live events, such as rooftop film screenings, creative workshops, NGO lectures, etc are frequently hosted by PAWA 254 throughout the week.
Is there somewhere you like going to escape the hustle and bustle and take some time away for yourself?
Distant Relatives Eco-Lodge & Backpackers, a divinely special place in Kilifi located on the coast of Kenya. Picturesque beaches, droves of local children, fascinating travellers and a renovated traditional boat called Musafir that offers seasonal “flotel” experiences where guests can sleep and live on the boat.
Best place to experience something unique to Nairobi?
Something you’ll find only in Kenya is the food and drink culture of Nyama Choma (open flame roast meat) and Tusker beer, enjoyed with a perfect sunset. The best place for this kind of experience can be found at Ole Polos.
First thing you miss after leaving Nairobi?
The boda drivers! These are motorcyle taxis who can transport you at ridiculously ideal speeds in the middle of intense traffic. They can also deliver food, wine & unthinkably random items when you are too lazy or busy to leave the house. Life without them is a struggle!
What do you have to eat in Nairobi?
Classic local food would include staple dishes with foods like ugali, chapati, nyama choma, rice pilau, bean stew, whole fried fish, etc. But since Nairobi is a multi-cultural melting pot of international cultures, you will also find every foodie genre under the sun.
What are your favourite cafes and restaurants?
ArtCaffe at The Oval for delicious salads, sandwiches, paistries, coffee, brunch, etc.
Tamu Tamu Dishes for super affordable local food with some of the best coconut fish ever!
Habesha for otherworldly Ethiopian food. Here, the Shiro is highly recommended!
Urban Eatery for gorgeous high ceilings, wood furnishings, glass windows & a menu that offers multiple cuisine options, ranging from fresh Sushi to authentic Indian curries.
Tokyo Sushi for gorgeous garden patios, hibachi grills, top of the line sushi & a wonderful selection of fine wines.
Mama Rocks is a contemporary twist on African food with delicious burgers, chicken wings, plantains and more. Their food truck has changed the face of social dining!
Best place to see another medium of art other than music?
Many! Nairobi is brimming with unique cultural experiences ranging from galleries to theatrical productions to creative lectures. Some of the best are Shifteye Gallery, Alliance Francaise & Go Down.
Are there any cool markets in Nairobi?
Many! For tourists/visitors, the Maasai Markets are a recommended must-see, considering the diverse collection of antique masks, beaded jewelry, musical instruments, traditional fabrics & more. Their are multiple Maasai Markets throughout the week, but the biggest and most exciting is for sure the Sunday market in town at the High Court Parking in CBD. For locals, the best clothing markets are Toi Market and Gikomba Market …but unfortunately you probably won’t find them on a Facebook page. However, if you’re willing to offroad adventure, definitely try to find someone in the city to take you there! 🙂
Who epitomises Nairobi street style for you?
Nairobi is overflowing with fashion kings & queens. Even askaris (guards) tend to have a swag all their own. So, to select one person who epitomises Nairobi street style is insane! But for the sake of this article… We’ll first name the infamous fashionista duo, 2MNYSBLNGS – brother & sister lifestyle bloggers Oliver & Velma who are followed by international audiences for the freshest styles & unique finds across the globe. Their style is rooted in Nairobi’s brave eclecticism, with touches of influence from around the world (as is the case with many Nairobians!) Their quarterly lifestyle events known as “Thrift Social” are immensely popular amongst the hip, young, artisan crowd who come to shop, ogle & take photographs. Another epitomizer would have to be Alexis Nereah, aka WILD_CHILD to her devoted Instagram followers. To her, fashion is not just what you wear, it is the artwork of your life & soul. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to track her down, she’s notoriously one of the best Toi & Gikomba Market guides.
Any secret favourite spots in Nairobi?
Champagne Rocks provides epic views and a quintessential feeling of the untouched wild.
Is there a person (dead or alive) who encapsulates Nairobi for you?
Nairobi is far too vast & surprising to be embodied in one, actual person. If so, it would likely be an indescribably brilliant but maniacally insane social entrepreneur who was as invested in improving itself as it was fascinated by sabotaging itself. A dichotomy of characteristics that epitomize mankind at its finest and worst.
Where will you find the friendliest, most interesting locals to have a chat with?
About an hour away from Nairobi’s city centre, overflowing with luscious greenery and a beautiful lake, at a favorite spot in Naivasha called Fisherman’s Camp.
What’s the best and worst thing about living in Nairobi?
The worst thing is hands down the unthinkably traumatizing traffic, caused not only by outdated road structure but also insane matatu (public transportation) drivers who essentially determine everyone’s driving experience. The best thing about living in Nairobi is the vivacious youth community, presently overflowing with artists, entrepreneurs, creatives & great minds who have banded together to establish a sense of artistic freedom, community support and limitless potential for our individual and collective success.
Who’s doing good things for Nairobi music right now, who you’d like to shout out?
As stated before, MIS & The Alchemist Bar have been key players in providing spaces and resources for not only up-and-coming, but visiting international artists in Nairobi. One of our collaborating media partners, What’s Good LIVE, also creates a diverse range of top quality Arts & Entertainment/Lifestyle content, which features captivating musicians & artists who would otherwise not be aired on television/radio. Kenyan celebrity, Patricia Kihoro, is infamously generous to lesser known musicians, constantly featuring an exquisite playlist of East African music on her weekly Sunday show for Homeboyz Radio.
Kenyan music pioneer, Blinky Bill of Just A Band, also shines light on his favorite up-and-comers through his RBMA radio show & frequent artist collaborations. For electronic/house music, Kenya Nights is well known for its events wherein popular local DJs share stages with international acts visiting Nairobi (the most remembered moment being when Diplo’s epic show literally broke the dance floor, which began caving in downstairs…)
Most importantly, big ups to Nairobi’s young creatives who never take no from the mainstream for an answer, who constantly trade new music via word of mouth and social media streams, determined to spread the culture with or without the support of financially backed entities. Cosmic Homies Records aims to use 2017 as a launching year for several projects that will hopefully offer a greater international platform for the Nairobian artists currently hustling their way up the ropes without any support.
Who are some of your favourite up-and-coming DJs/producers/musicians bubbling up in Nairobi right now?
Nairobi is currently on FIRE. With too many incredible artists to mention! But again, we’ll try…
Our closest, Cosmic Homies extended family members are 5 artists who comprise the DJ/Producer/Artist collective called EA Wave. Like us, Jinku, Hiribae, Nu Fvnk, Ukweli & Mvroe are all artists on their own, but combine forces to create an otherworldly community. We often collaborate with them and are consistently surprised and inspired by their track selection, song production and live performance. The funkalicious live band Yellow Light Machine plays beautifully crafted, original music and also extend their versatility to support many up-and-coming performers who do not yet have bands of their own. Singer/Songwriter Tetu Shani is quickly becoming one of Nairobi’s signature story tellers and proved his diverse style capabilities when collaborating with well known Kenyan singer Mayonde and EA Wave’s Jinku earlier this year, with lyrics influenced by both spirituality and street life, rapper TwennyEights has a wordplay style uniquely of his own. Some other artists who have captured our ears & hearts include, Kerby, Sichangi and Half Baked.
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us? Where and how did you record it, what was the idea behind it and are there?
This mix was created by Cosmic Homies main in-house DJ called, TAIO. Inspired by the cultural movement we’ve lately been calling #NuNairobi, he intentionally focused on some of our favorite alternative andexperimental artists currently destroying the game in Nairobi. Recording took place at TAIO’s home studio in Kileleshwa (where Cosmic Homies also recorded our first tracks!)
And finally, what’s on the horizon for you in terms of live dates or releases we should look out for?
2017 will kick off with a weekly podcast hosted by Cosmic Homies in collaboration with NuNairobi family, EA Wave. Inspired by the likes of Low End Theory & Soulection, this podcast will feature a variety of unique Kenya-based alternative artists, curated with the sole intention of presenting Kenya’s emerging, eclectic music scene as profoundly diverse as it truly is. Stay up on our social media posts for broadcast info, we’ve got new media content, pop up events & radical collaborations on the way too.
Sky High – YLM X EA Wave
Nedd You The Most: Runka Ft Kiwango
Champagne And Reefer: Ukweli Ft Kerby
The In Between: Marushka
Wacha Maneno: Blinky Bill Ft Shappaman
We Just Stopped Talking: M3
Don’t Doubt: Blinky Bill Ft Maia Von Lekow
A Million Emotions: Runka Ft Kiwango
Drive Me Crazy: Nu Fvnk
Time Flies Bye: Cosmic Homies
Abiro: Riot Stereo X Suraj
Fire: Riot Stereo X Suraj
Chemistry: Basthma X Tetu Shani X Mayonde X Jinku
Ku Mwezi: Nu Fvnk Ft Dj Rahcael