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Feature: The genesis & birth of Guvnor

By TShaka Mayanja

The first thing I did when my Elder (Charlie Lubega) gave me a job, was to lift up the mood and Spirit of our existing establishments, Ange Noir and Ange Mystique.

New theme nights were created, existing ones ‘sooped’ up, light boxes added outdoors etc. We also created a website together with KS Alpha. By then, we had to cater for the clientele in both Ange Noir (the younger ones) and Ange Mystique (the older more ‘moneyed’ folks).

By then, my friend, the Oldies DJ supremo, Bangi (RIP) had returned to Ange Mystique, after leaving to go to do the theme night with our competition; two other clubs actually, where he went. He came to see me at Ange Noir one day, we sat in “my office” which was on the Ange Noir dance floor.

He said he wished Oldies Night took place in Ange Noir instead of Ange Mystique. His argument was, the three separate floors in Mystique meant he could not be close enough to the revelers at the same time. It made sense, but we couldn’t change the format.

Ange Mystique actually had a fourth floor, which was on top of the Members Floor. One day, I sat in “my office” with my brother Gonza Kagwa and we started going through some crazy ideas. We actually went on the top floor which has a marvelous airport hangar like roof. We came up with a theme and ideas.

My Elder joined us and we took him through the outlandish ideas. One of them was to actually break the wall of Ange Mystique Parking, on the Jinja Road side, and create a car entrance there. That way, revelers didn’t have to go the long way around, they could drive straight off Jinja road into the parking. We would then build a ramp where they could walk from the parking yard straight to the top floor!

I even invited Brigitte Koehler from Roko, to come and give us ideas on where they could build a lift that would take revelers straight to the top floor! We were serious.

My Elder graciously told us that these plans were beautiful, but not very practical. For starters, he was worried about the weight of the top floor affecting the whole structure. Planning permissions too would be a trick. So, we stored our plans away for another day.

One day in a management meeting in 2008 I think, my Elder told us that the crowd Ange Noir was targeting was getting ever so smaller and less effective in monetary terms, so we should reduce the nights we were open, to save costs. We agreed grudgingly. After a while, he told us he is actually going to totally close Ange Noir as it wasn’t making business sense, and that only Ange Mystique would remain open.

We argued with the Elder that our main competitor was opening more areas and zones, yet we were closing ours. The reality is, my Elder is such a foresighted business man, it’s unbelievable. He is gifted. So, after all those years of history, the famous Ange Noir closed doors. In hindsight, I now realize he was spot on. He foresaw ten years ago, what would happen to Nightclubs.

It was time for Gonza and I to pull out and dust off our crazy ideas after a while. We dug up ideas from the internet, lots of pictures and themes. By then, my Elder had bought into the concept of working on Ange Noir, but wasn’t yet sure how. We requested for a meeting with him.

This time round, Paul Mukasa Ssentongo had to be present because he is Mr. Hands On. We presented our outlandish ideas. “Anti TShaka ne Gonza era muleese crazy ideas zammwe”. We had aquariums, water fountains, a big statue of a horse, sculptures; you name it!

We were told where to fine tune, and we were back to the drawing board. This time round, we were ecstatic that my Elder had agreed to do the project!!!

We came up with a combination of ancient Greek and Roman architecture theme; Latin. He and Gonza had the foresight to tell us that the club theme/colors would be lighter, which was a totally different tangent from what Nightclubs were at the time; very dark!

My Elder does not do 50-50, he goes all out. Only top brands for equipment will do; Quality. A lot of things right from Ange Noir to Mystique were custom made for the establishments; from the carpets to the mirrors! So, you can imagine how much more he would go, for the next jewel; Guvnor.

Oh, I forgot to mention; his eye and attention to the smallest detail is so high, it’s annoying. He rarely, if ever, misses a thing; even construction works! Perfection; just ask Gonza

In December 2010, the club was ready for unveiling! Revelers couldn’t believe how bright it was inside! The ‘hanging’ well lit ceiling, which all and sundry are now copying in bars and clubs, was another beautiful Gonza idea.

The club was freezing cold, so chilled as the air conditioning system was top notch. The Smoking Area was incredible, no amount of smoke would affect non smokers due to the special ventilation system.

That Roman soldier effigy holding a spear was such a beautiful surprise my Elder brought in for us, to fully accentuate the theme. Ah well, it’d do nicely, since we didn’t get our horse.

Guvnor’s two constants are our bouncer KGB and that statue of a Roman soldier at the entrance. Both of them will be at the gates of heaven too!

From the beautiful, changing color themes, I was inspired to come up with our official tag line; “Whatever Your Mood, We’ve Got The Colors”.

It was such a proud moment for us when Elder gave a welcoming speech. Our once crazy idea was now tangible, it could be touched! Mr. Perfection #2 Ssentongo was all over the place too, making sure everything, from the water tanks to all the electricals, were in shape.

Consequently, Mystique too closed its doors. Occasionally, especially in December, we do actually open up the Mystique 1st floor, which is still intact, to the surprise of many! Ange Mystique was ahead of its time for sure. Oh, and those SEGA Rally machines that folks used to queue up for from daytime till morning; yeap, they still exist!

We now had to make sure Guvnor was THE Nightclub to be, to continue where it’s “parents” left off. One of the first things I felt had to be done was to bring back Live music to this place.

Around 2008, while chatting with Mwami Frank Mbalire in Ange Noir during the day, he told me the first time he had entered the place was in 1969 when it was still Kololo Club. It was THE place to be for the affluent of the time, to watch/dance too live music. That story registered in my brain, and resonated with me.

A couple of years after Guvnor opened its doors, I sat down with Mwami Matovu and Mwami Ssenkebejje Tony, and told them about a concept I had. We agreed that a live band performance would be a good idea.

I presented the concept to my Elder and the team. It was finally endorsed after lots of convincing. The Legends Ball was born! Out of it, came Friday Night Live with Afrigo Band and special guests every month, to this day.

Themes, bars and clubs come and go, but; Plot 77a, 1st Street Jinja Road has remained active since 1991. It is an institution. If only it could tell the tons of stories it has witnessed. From boys to men, girls to women; the doors have seen thousands of revelers over the years.

Being consistently in the middle of the entertainment scene in Uganda, let alone anywhere in the world, for thirty years straight, is a tough job. It is also such an honor and a privilege to watch the metamorphosis of the industry in this country and region.

It’s All The Grace of Ttonda The Most High And My Ancestors Through Whom I Am Spiritually Guided Itinually ☥

That, I will certainly celebrate with gusto on Saturday 30th November 2019.

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