There are 5 golden rules to follow once you find yourself traversing downtown Nairobi. Live by these, and you might just make it back home with your phone intact.

Rule One: Trust Nobody, Suspect Everybody

The first, and arguably, the only one you need to know, is: Do not be distracted by the side shows.
Or as popularly put by the Kenyan comedian and TikTok sensation Rono, “Trust Nobody, Suspect Everybody.
Located in downtown Nairobi, where Tom Mboya Street meets Ronald Ngala Street, and the hustle and bustle of the shamba la mawe grind is thickest, is an unlikely cultural oasis by the name Melodica Music Stores. Melodica’s specialty is vinyl records. I knew better than to get easily lured, but the music overruled my senses.


Rule Two: Do Not Talk to Strangers

I was floored by how warm and inviting the patrons at Melodica were. More so because I was not planning to make any purchase, a fact I verbally made abundantly clear as soon as I set foot inside. I was a strange sojourner who’d found her way to their premise, loaded not with cash, but rather, with questions and curiosity.

Yet, here there they were—ever so polite, ever so welcoming.
Maajabu ya Musa!


Rule Three: Though You May Be, Do Not Appear Lost

I like to think of myself as a self-ordained music connoisseur.

True as this may be, I admittedly have a few blind spots. Never in my life have I felt so lacking in musical depth, especially the oldies, as the day I walked into Melodica Music Store. Mocking my seemingly limited repertoire was a universe of melodies begging to be explored. Still, some few household Zilizopendwa and Rhumba names afforded me points of reference, enabling me to save face.

Rule Four: If lost-lost; Ask a Soja for Directions

There comes a time when admitting ignorance is the wisest thing to do.  Mama raised no fool, so I bit the bullet and asked for help.

I came to learn that Melodica is the oldest music shop within East Africa. Not only is it a shop, but also a record label, vinyl producer and publisher of African music. If walls could talk, the ones at Melodica Music would tell tales about sonic encounters with musical greats, not excluding Daudi Kabaka.

David Kabaka Meets the Next Generation of Melodica Music

Rule Five: If the Goal is to Fill Your Stomach, Go to The Not So Nice-Looking Restaurant. Utalipia Ambience Wewe! Chunga.

Prior to paying Melodica Music Store a visit (because that was the only payment I could willingly make), I thought vinyl records, let alone record players, were luxury goods. It took immense courage to even decide to be a walk-in window shopper. However, as I browsed through their diverse offerings, I was pleasantly shocked at how well distributed the prices were.

More than just a place, it’s an experience. KIU’s music video “Mwanake” is just one example of how their stunning ambience inspires creativity.

Vinyl is not the only trade at Melodica. They also stock a comprehensive music collection, including CDs, cassettes, and instruments like the violin.

Photos: Maingi Kabera