Beating Kigali's noise 'curfew'

At 5pm on Friday, Tim gave his battered BMW a full tank; (a rare thing) and headed out of the city to hunt for a place him, alongside a troop of four friends could have a weekend of unabated fun; they ended up in a Ugandan town of Kabale District.

At 5pm on Friday, Tim gave his battered BMW a full tank; (a rare thing) and headed out of the city to hunt for a place him, alongside a troop of four friends could have a weekend of unabated fun; they ended up in a Ugandan town of Kabale District.

Last night, most of Kigali’s popular night-clubs and pubs were uncharacteristically calm, obviously cautious to avoid tripping the noise alert button.

Today, it’s dawning on the pastors of the ‘born-again’ churches that you simply can’t worship loudly in the face of city hall regulations.

On Thursday, a bunch of journalists were having some noisy lunch-time banter when one of them raised and whispered comically, ‘ssshi! Shut up, the city mayor is thinking!’ It has since become a newsroom joke to break up noisy arguments.

Noise, which is measured in decibels, is abnormally loud sound; the question is, how do you know one’s decibels have crossed over from normal to the abnormal lane?

What’s the officially accepted level of decibels and is everyone aware of this standard? The police allegedly have a device by-which they determine that but shouldn’t we all, so we stay out of harm’s way? Where then can one buy a ‘noise-meter’?

On a hierarchy list of Kigali City’s priority problems, I could bet that noise pollution is at the bottom. We are at a time when Rwandans are responding to the government call to start businesses, create wealth, create jobs, improve incomes and widen the tax base.

Unfortunately, this stringent city noise regulation has only pleased our local city philosophers who don’t want interruptions of their brown studies to theorize.

But to showbiz entrepreneurs, they’re counting losses. At one popular restaurant with music theme nights, the manager has laid off two in-house deejays as there’s no need for them.

At a leading city hotel, a popular theme night on Thursdays has been suspended after authorities waved a finger; the story is shared among many other city leisure businesses.

This noise pollution subject has inspired a noisy-media-firestorm but clearly the business community needs some judicial activism to come to their rescue.

Silent discos

But if the business community can’t fight and win this battle with city hall then this comment should make a contribution in form of possible solutions.

Unfortunately, the solution, especially to night clubs, might come across as wanting to have Champaigne on a beer budget.

A few years ago while on a study trip in Netherlands, a friend took me to what she called ‘silent disco’…this was the first time I was hearing the term. Basically, in a silent disco, people listen and dance to music through wireless headphones.

Kigali night club investors can start exploring this disco-format. Rather than using heavy bass speaker systems, music is broadcast via a radio transmitter with the signal being picked up by wireless headphone receivers worn by the participants.

Inside a silent disco hall, there are normally several sources of music {different genres}…several deejays, two the minimum competing with each other for traffic on their channels.

Partiers simply wear the headphones and turn channels looking for the music that suits them.

The funny part is that a hundred people in one room could easily be dancing to four different songs and if it’s a couple, you have to agree on the channel otherwise the dance moves would never match.

But the good thing with silent disco is that only those with the headphones can hear the music, even in the room, once you remove the set, you hear nothing. In fact, with this innovation, one could even throw a party just about anywhere and no one would ever complain of noise.

Just buy plenty of wireless headphones and party in loud silence. Can the churches adopt this format? I really don’t know.

But someone came up with a madcap idea just the other day called ‘text worshipping’ a model where pastors could form a WhatsApp group and add all their members…the pastor writes and posts in the group, ‘praise the lord’ and the members text back in response.

See, it used to be an Indian thing to sleep where you work…in towns, not anymore, it’s now a Rwandan thing as well, residences and businesses in same zones, otherwise how can one have a bar or night-club for a neighbour?

To beat this noise curfew, people like Tim will continue exiting the country on week-ends to hunt for unabated fun elsewhere but at what cost to the economy? How do we strike a balance to avoid losses?

Let the people make merry, no hungry man makes noise; where there’s singing, there’s happiness.

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