It’s Saturday 10pm and we put on our dancing shoes and head to a nightclub in Mirema estate on Thika Road.
The DJ is playing loud afrobeat music, with a dash of bongo here, amapiano there and reggae and ragga, to name just a few.
We hit the dance floor, the DJ is doing his thing; dancing, screaming and generally good vibes everywhere as people unwind from a long workweek. The DJ is supported by a hype master, who keeps interrupting the music to fire up the revellers.
A few metres away is another nightclub, but the more the hype the more the music base boom goes up and the more everybody is on the dance floor at times until 5am.
But as they say, one man's meat is another man's poison. Beyond the walls of the club, innumerable residents in this emerging beer belt can barely close their eyes for hours as the loud music from the nearly one dozen clubs within a radius of 300 metres keeps denying them that luxury.
For the uninitiated, Mirema estate – where Samuel Muvota was shot dead in broad daylight – is sandwiched between Roysambu estate and the Northern Bypass.
Some of the popular clubs dotting the single street estate are Attic, Paris Lounge, Charm Lounge, Alton Lounge and La Tessara Lounge. The estate also hosts dozens of pubs and wines and spirits shops.
Data from the Nairobi County liquor board shows that in 2021, Starehe constituency had the highest number of registered liquor stores (88), followed by Roysambu (where Mirema is located, 48). Lang’ata and Dagoretti North both had 35 new wines and spirits shops.
Besides the noisy nightclubs, Mirema estate also hosts tens of Airbnbs, where people go to have all manner of fun.
It is therefore not uncommon to witness young skimpily dressed men and women walking around the estate in early mornings or driving around with music blaring from cars.
Mary Wandera, 42, is a mother of two. She lives barely 200 metres from one of the hottest clubs in the neighbourhood with her two children: a five-year-old and a nine-month-old.
She describes the experience of putting up with the loud music and screams as a nightmare.
“I am telling you this is generally a nightmare. I have a nine-month child who wakes up at just the sound of me breathing. You can imagine with the noise she is wide awake the whole night, and this is too much,” she said.
“I’m not against partying but it’s just too much for me and my children. I am even thinking of moving because I can’t live here one more month.”
Life in Mirema estate, like most city neighbourhoods, is on the verge of exploding as new nightclubs crop up each month.
The young population drawn to the relatively cheap houses compounds the problem.
But the nature of the clubs, which can match any clubs in any other part of the city, also draws revellers from far and wide.
Nicholas Kamau, a businessman who moved to the Mirema neighbourhood seven years ago, narrates how peaceful the place was. But he enjoyed only two years of tranquillity before the clubs started to be the in-thing.
Mr Kamau, however, says every month a new club opens in the area, leaving him and many residents determined to look for other houses in other places.
It is like a competition
“The music wakes me up, which I hate. There is a certain tune that wakes me up, it is like my alarm and it bothers me because at 5am I am up preparing to go to work. They don’t switch off the music until morning and remember where I stay there are like three clubs so it is like a competition. But who can you tell?” posed Mr Kamau.
“Sometimes you just want to have peace. You come home from work and you have boarded a matatu that is not noisy just to have peace of mind only to get to your house and you wonder, I should have boarded a noisy matatu and just come here to continue with all the noises.”
Mr Kamau lamented that new clubs are mushrooming in the area, with a larger percentage licensed to operate next to residential houses and schools.
This, residents say, has contributed significantly to property devaluation and loss of income for landlords as tenants have left the properties.
“I have seen many people move out, and what’s dangerous is something bad might be happening outside and because of the noise in the neighbourhood we cannot hear what is happening. It is frustrating each month clubs are put up, which leaves us the residents to wonder,” Mr Kamau said.
“We need help because we don’t want to cross their paths which might come later to bite us.”
Ms Wandera wonders why noise regulations are not observed. “You wake up tired from the noise of the club and from my child not sleeping the previous night to go to work, but we wish that regulations drawn up by [environment watchdog] Nema can be adhered to,” she said.
“This is too much. I have to put my older son on earmuffs. You know you just get wrinkles because of lack of sleep.”
Mixed residential and commercial zone
Other residents lamented that Nairobi County lacks clear zoning and physical planning, leading to the area being a mixed residential and commercial zone with no control over what business to set up.
They also point figures at corrupt police officers who collect bribes every evening from bars and wines and spirits stores. The bars are then left to play loud music the entire night.
According to the national environment management and coordination regulations, no person should make or cause to be made any loud, unreasonable, unnecessary or unusual noise which annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health or safety of others and the environment.
But Kevin Oloitiptip, Deputy Director of Environment Monitoring Compliance and Enforcement, NMS, said they are working on how to rein in nightclubs causing noise pollution.
“We have received reports on noise pollution from Mirema Drive … we have done an operation on Mirema Drive. Today alone I have received 100 complaints in Nairobi and that’s why we are working on a plan, because can you cover the whole of Nairobi in a day?” he said.
“We work with the complaints we have received and come up with a work plan and we strictly adhere to that work plan.”