15 February 2013

Rwanda: The Evolution of House Parties

I have come to understand house parties this way; a party at your house which usually does not involve the consent or prying eye of your parents, so there's lots of alcohol and people getting crazy, your house gets messed up and you wish it never happened. Basically the worst party decision you could ever make.

THE QUESTION IS: with Kigali's ever expanding night life, how and why have house parties persisted, even become more established in the city's collective party psyche?

I have come to understand house parties this way; a party at your house which usually does not involve the consent or prying eye of your parents, so there's lots of alcohol and people getting crazy, your house gets messed up and you wish it never happened. Basically the worst party decision you could ever make.

"Kigali isn't one of the more party-oriented African capitals with raging bar scenes and red light districts," says Adrian, a tourist on long stay.

Enter the house party. To combat the relatively laid-back night life, house parties abound. House parties in Kigali are common and if you've got a decent-sized circle of friends, you'll probably be able to find at least one every weekend. Basically, the more like-minded friends you have, the bigger your prospects at clinching an invite to the latest domestic drink-up.

These days, rather than wearing suits and starting happy families, everyone in their early twenties to mid thirties is doing either of two things; sitting on the internet and chatting to friends on Facebook, or attending a house party.

I have been to a couple of house parties around town, and many have reminded me of an eighteen year old's birthday gig that is getting out of hand.

I still retain good memories from the suburban house parties of my early teenage years, or the house parties of older boys, which we gate crashed mainly to see how they competed for and danced with the ever few girls available. At most of these parties, the ratio of girls to boys stood at as low as 2:20. Girls were still not that party hungry, I guess.

What I remember, and cherish about these parties was that, almost as a rule, they were wildly unpredictable. They weren't parties that you had to plan, as is the norm these days. Rather, they were parties that simply erupted onto the landscape and engulfed everyone. There were always scenes of fierce, alcohol-fuelled fist fights and awkward-looking people. They were usually over very quickly, but then maybe the best parties always are. At some point, staying up all night long ceases to be fun. We all know when that point arrives in our individual lives, don't we?,

Which is better, though? I decided to weigh up all the most important facets of a house party - then and now - to find an answer.


Then: the house parties of then existed in a culture where people's parents' houses usually had more than one room, a nice big radio and a two-year-old bottle of some exotic-sounding wine, tucked safely away for when it is really needed.

Now: Fast forward to now, and unless you're a tycoon's or diplomat's kid, or have landed that dream job that does not require you to work 12+ hours a day, it's likely that the place where you and your friends live is a cage when compared to the lush and extensive compound of the home your parents raised you in.

Which is better? Now. As much as I appreciated the space and basic cleanliness of my teenage house parties, I never ever want to be at another party where the host's elderly grandmother is upstairs, barricaded in her cold room while the drunken boys urinate on her shoe rack and destroy her prized ornaments.


Then: House parties then were, in a way, "dry" like a Mormon wedding. There were no expensive, gold-flaked wines and vodkas and "Labels" as is the standard today, even at the tiniest of house parties. Usually, it was home-made, semi-crude cocktails, or whatever one could set their hands on.

The insufficient amount of alcohol on offer didn't stop the usual suspects from crying on the stairs, puking in the garden and starting fights in the kitchen, but the party was usually over by about 11PM, at which point you would zigzag your way home and maintain an illusion of sobriety in front of the TV while your dad shot you knowing looks. It's easy to forget, but parties back then normally ended around the same time that most of us are getting everything ready for a night on the town these days.

Which is better?

Then:  Sure, now we can buy our own alcohol rather than concocting mixed spirits out of stolen liquor, but for reasons related to supply and demand, you just valued it more back then. Every sip was a hard-won victory. It would seem that getting drunk then felt a lot better than taking drugs does now. That is the reason one barely encountered drugs at house parties back in the day, whereas no house party today is complete without the same.


Then: Music is probably the one aspect of house parties that has not evolved significantly over the years. The reason is that there will only ever be two types of DJs at parties: the people who want to look cool, and the people who have enough gut to play what they feel like listening to.

Now:The true constant to be recognised in house party DJs is the fact that most of them always tend to take the job too seriously.

Which is better? Since nothing much has changed about the music at house parties, I think this one is a stalemate.

That said, there are always going to be pathetic young men who think their knowledge of computerized DJ software like PCDJ Red and Virtual DJ is an automatic ticket to getting laid.


Then: Though not as rampant as today, one still encountered drugs at house parties then. Doing the drugs though seemed to be a hustle. You saw people convene in obscure parts of the house or compound, sometimes a smelly, disused pit latrine.

Now: These days, the drug rituals remain, but the gear has changed. A druggie at a house party may not be very hard to spot, as they usually come in designer dinner jackets, dark glasses, and Converse All-Star shoes. If you happen to eavesdrop on them, they are going on about this or that creative project or unresolved family issues.

Which is better?

This is another tough one, so we shall leave the verdict open.


Then:What is a house party without hook-ups? And the hook-ups of today are not like the hook-ups of then. Hooking someone up at a party then was a painful, awkward and childish affair.

It was all knocking teeth rather than knocking knees. There would be the occasional canoodling and swapping of saliva in the public washroom, but normally it would be swiftly interrupted by a crew of other partygoers disguising jealously as a cruel prank.

Now: Today, the typical house party is devoid of that easy, near-innocent promiscuity. A couple of reasons immediately spring to mind to explain this; firstly, there is AIDS, a phenomenon that has come to instill in people a basic fear of sex that was unheard of at the house party of yesteryear.

Basically, today people go to house parties to misbehave among familiar company. The boys just want to behave badly and crack crude jokes among their circle, while the ladies want to sip delicately on Tequila and despair over their good-for-noting boyfriends, who would be outside in the garden, kicking up a storm with their gang.

Which is better?

At the last house party I attended, the issue of partner swapping was raised by the host, and it did not come across as a joke. Therefore, Then was better than now.

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