There is nothing unpredictable with Friday nights in major cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. In fact, the story is nothing unusual in busy districts like Karonga, Mangochi, Kasungu and Mulanje to the equation.
You expect hundreds, dressed to kill, trooping to clubs and halls of fun to either have a drink or, sometimes, watch a live performance from regular stage giants like Black Missionaries, Lucius Banda and Soul Raiders—to name but a few.
In fact, when you are in Lilongwe or Blantyre, the Friday tradition is that when the clock clicks anything after 23 hours, all roads leads to particular night favourites. In Blantyre you are talking either of Chez Ntemba or Grand and Grill; while Lilongwe, you cannot go wrong to suggest Chez Ntemba and Discorium.
But what if your Friday night finds you in fairly known destinations such as Chitipa, Ntcheu, Dowa and Nsanje?
I had a Friday night experience in Nsanje District recently. Basically, by around nine, the town begins to get deserted.
Often what mostly crowds the town is a congress of buyers and sellers—who trade in fretters, vegetables and other groceries outside stores and also along the main roads. Besides, there are also a chain of small restaurants that mostly serves visitors—especially from NGO sector working in the districts’ various corners.
As it is with other fairly known districts, you hardly expect locals to eat out. Eating out, even among Malawians living in our major cities, is not a common tradition. As such—if not for visitors or tourists—you just cannot think of it Nsanje.
So by around 9pm, the Nsanje’s Central Business District (CBD) was almost getting deserted. But as the streets were getting deserted, faints of blasting music began to soar mostly from bottle stores and bars.
Apart from a tavern that is barely active after 7pm, there are, judging from the Friday night I was there, three mostly patronised drinking places at Nsanje CBD. They include: Bluetooth, Simbeko and Aunt Patty.
However, of the three, and many unmentioned others, it is Aunt Bar and Grill which, just like Chez Ntemba in Blantyre and Lilongwe, plays the last man standing.
“Wherever you would be, but this where we all ended to drink even more, dance and, if worst comes to the worst, sleep here,” says John Nyakhulumba, a reveller in the district.
The joint was not packed to the brim. There were handful of people, and even fewer had bottles in their hand. The rest were either just playing and watching pool while some just sat stood on dark corners watching things happen.
The few that had bottles, evident in their looks and fashionable dress, were mostly either visiting NGO gurus or civil servants from various government institutions.
The music, mostly Malawian and Zambian, was being played from CDs—and for the three hours I was present, they kept repeating the same songs.
The problem, the resident DJ reckoned, was that their laptop had malfunctioned so they only managed a single CD to keep the music running
I did not stay until late. But still, they, too, in Nsanje have fun though not as you would imagine in a city.