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After dark: The always evolving Kampala nightlife

Revellers at one of Kampala’s hangout spot. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI

The optimism of the newly freed country fueled Kampala’s vibrant nightlife in the early years of independence. Nightclubs, dancehalls, and bars sprung up across the city, drawing in both locals and expatriates.

Iconic establishments like White Nile in Katwe, Kololo Club, and Suzanna in Nakulabye were the favourite haunts of the city’s elite and political class, offering live music, dance floors, and an air of sophistication.

Nightlife during this time period was characterised by a fusion of traditional and contemporary elements, with live bands playing a wide variety of music to create a distinctive sound that embodied the post-independence spirit.

During this time, nightlife was a reflection of the changing cultural and political landscape of Uganda.

It was an era when the world was introduced to the vibrant rhythms of Ugandan music, thanks to artists like the legendary Elly Wamala, who graced venues such as the Sheraton Hotel, then known as the Apollo Hotel.

His music captured the hopes and dreams of the people, and his performances, along with those of other artists in his league, became an integral part of the city’s nightlife.

The 1970s and 1980s brought turmoil, leading to the closure of many venues.

Nevertheless, underground gatherings emerged as a means of escapism from the harsh realities of the time.

As Uganda emerged from these turbulent times, a new generation of entrepreneurs and entertainers arose, determined to reinvigorate the city’s nightlife.

The late 1980s and throughout the 1990s witnessed a resurgence of nightclubs and bars, and the city’s residents welcomed this revival with great enthusiasm, marking the recovery of Kampala’s nightlife.

The turn of the millennium brought the impact of globalisation, influencing the entertainment scene and the nightlife alike.

Nightclubs like Angenoir and Silk, which had originally opened in the mid-1990s, emerged as the new faces of nightlife in Kampala, reflecting changing preferences.

With modern interiors, urban DJs, and state-of-the-art sound systems, these establishments catered to a younger, more cosmopolitan crowd.

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