Midnight Express Club Thriller
The Lounge took a trip back in time to try and relive the ‘thrive of the 80s and 90s. And what better place to do justice to the call than the Midnight Express Club Thriller! This was the heartbeat and jukebox of Katutura since mid-August 1987. Named after the legendary Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album Thriller, the club was the first night club in the township. The hot place was known for its state of the arts structure with its interior industrial aesthetic and black and white tiles which did nothing but encouraged extensive dancing. Imagine travelling in time for a casual disco night back in the days. Its 19h00 on a Wednesday evening and everyone knows its ‘ladies night’ at Club Thriller and free entrance for the dance floor killers. The then famous DJ Thabo is on the decks and everybody knew this was the night made lively at the new place in town and the queens and kings of the dance halls and discos way back wouldn’t opt to miss out on that. These were the times when wearing killer colours, androgynous hippies, bellbottoms, high platform heels and the killer afro complemented by the check shirt, earning one space in paparazzi’s Best Dressed corner.
“The club opened right about the time UNTAG had arrived in the country and it was also the time the returnees arrived so in one night one would meet a lot of people from different countries. Thus, a lot of foreigners visiting the club,” said Sara Shikongo, the second and current owner of the building. “I wouldn’t have chosen a better era to operate this club,” she continued. In its infant days, the unforgettable legends of Kwela, Jazz and Jive were some of the endless list of bands and artists who performed at the Midnight Express. Ingredients to the dance floors and soul seekers were the likes of Angolan-based musical group Impacters 4, 4×4, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Dr Victor, Sipho Hot Sticks Mabuse, Pett Shange and Alouis Mabele. To close off, local show stoppers like Hot Line band, Bones from Khomasdal, the Rockets and Reho Combo brought the curtain down with a mark that got many to come back the next day. Saturday nights celebrated local talent with the ‘It Night’. Dance floor lovers were invited to show off their skills in the eyes of audience judges – all the fun, just at the cost of R8 as entrance fee. With a night like this, beverages like Windhoek Larger, Windhoek Export and sister Tafel Larger would leave the fridge with no arguments because it was for the good course of the night.
“Back then, the abuse of alcohol was not really a concern because people only sipped on beer. They did not know much about hot stuff so it would be rare to see really drunk people,” recalled Shikongo. Just like today’s modern clubs, Club Thriller accommodated all classes in house. It featured a Beer Garden which is at the back of the club, a VIP lounge and a restaurant which is on the second floor of the building. However, all customers knew the dance floor bring them together. The VIP section was home to the Olupale club, which was an exclusive group of the ‘Who Is Who’ of Windhoek. “Not just anyone could be part of the Olupale club. One had to have a sort of status to be a member of this club,” said Uncle Mike, the founder of the club. Even provided that it was built before independence, the midnight express was architected for the sole reason of being a club. To avoid waking up those in the surrounding area, the cub was sound proof and security was not even a question of concern.
Hospitality was top notch and client who had too much of the larger would be transported home after the closing hour for their safety. History has it that women have been favoured when it comes to their automatic presence at chill-out spots and Club Thriller was no exception to this phenomenon. On days like Friday and Saturday, the first 20 ladies entered for free. According to Uncle Mike, the club on a good weekend would have round about 1000 visitors and would make more than R70 000. “This place was a gold mine back in the days,” he said. Some of the biggest events the club hosted were Miss Club Thriller in 1989 and other events that saw musical gurus from neighbouring countries. Today the club is no longer operational and the place that used to be the dance floor is now a mini supermarket. Shikongo said she does not have any plans to reopen the club any time soon but added that other facilities namely the VIP section, The Beer Garden, and Restaurant are still available for events such as birthday parties, baby showers, and other small social gatherings.