When I recently asked Philip Mwaniki, the Nation’s entertainment critic, for a quick review of the Club Galileo in Nairobi’s Westlands area, this is what he had to say: “It is upscale, but not high-end. You could say it’s patronised by upwardly mobile young professionals with about Sh5,000 to spare after paying their monthly house rent.”
Other restaurant reviews from Google effusively talked about its “charming atmosphere”, “fanciful ambience”, “welcoming décor” and “comfortable couches”.
So it was that after a long day in the newsroom last Saturday I ventured out into the Westlands nightlife to see and have a feel for myself.
Being no party animal myself, I was content to watch rather than join the men and women – many in their 20s and a few on the wrong side of 30 – do their thing on the dance floor.
In a week which started with news that some parents had gone to court to have a school allow their daughters the freedom to sport the hijab, I could hardly take my eyes off a group of five youths a few couches away.
The three women and two men struck me as people who on another day or in another place would have been in overflowing garments.
But here the women in tights and hot pants looked fairly comfortable in their skin.
The men, too, were unfettered in their sagging jeans and baggy T-shirts.
One of the women could easily have made it among the best dancers of the night.
Whether it was the acrobatic motions of the Bend Over song or the vigorous beats of Tobina, the Lingala gospel hit, she never put a foot wrong.
Afterwards the Club Galileo experience got me thinking.
A combination of factors – including a liberal Bill of Rights under the new Constitution, the government’s overzealous war on terrorism and immigration – makes it inevitable that Kenya will soon have to deal with cultural integration challenges similar to those the French or British society is currently facing.
The challenges may take the form of a dual citizen asserting his constitutional right that a section of society considers alien or even radical, or a parent demanding that his or her child carries a religious symbol to a public school.
Luckily for us, we start from a relative position of advantage with the melting pot of the Nairobi nightlife already offering important lessons in cultural integration.