Out of Africa
Osakas African community,
although strong, is often overlooked. This month, Kansai Scene takes
a look at three Shinsaibashi bars that embody the African spirit.
Free Your Mind
Freetown recently celebrated their two year anniversary.
Owner Med Lomaci has been in Japan for fourteen years, teaching,
DJing and bartending, but it is this, his latest venture that has
brought him the most satisfaction. Freetown is an atmospheric space
the lighting is dim, and the interior was designed and built
by Med himself. The intricate mural, spanning the four walls, was
done by a friend of his, and the effect is impressive.
There is a wide variety of drink at the bar, including some imported
from Africa. Most notable is the cane spirit, brought over from
Kenya and Uganda, a powerful drink that you should only order if
youre sure you can handle it, Med assures me. It goes for
¥800 a shot. There is also African wine and beers. The menu
is exclusively African, with curries going for around ¥1000,
and a hot pepper soup, which is apparently a good hangover cure,
Med aims to educate Japanese people about Africa, the diversity
of culture, music and food that is represented. He himself is from
Sierra Leone, but says that first and foremost he feels African.
Eighty percent of his clientele are Japanese, but are usually adventurous
enough to get into things. He has occasional African bands play
at the bar, such as the Kenyan Ngoma za Kikuetu drums
and dance show on the 22nd. Contact him for details.
4/F, New Grand Bld, 2-8-5 Higashi-shinsaibashi.
Open every day, Mon-Sat 18:00 05:00, Sun 19:00 05:00
Closest station: Shinsaibashi
Welcome to the Jungle
Jungle Africa offers a different take on African
life. More of a restaurant than a bar, owner Maron is also a long-term
resident, and says he opened his restaurant to dispel stereotypes
about Africa, to educate about the different types of lifestyles,
music, food, and language that he has encountered. Originally from
Ghana, he serves up cuisine from all over the continent, and will
unveil a new menu in the near future. Right now, however, there
is something for everyones taste, from soup and stew courses
and small dishes starting from ¥200 for a kebab to fried plantain.
There is a standard drink menu, with cocktails and bottled beer
for ¥800. There is also the intriguingly-named Ghana Power,
The atmosphere is bright and upbeat, and he keeps a loop of African
TV on. The music mirrors the interior, reflecting the diversity
of the African sound.
For a bit of a wake up (or knock-out, depending on when in the evening
you try it) a shot of his special African Power spirit is a must.
It is made form a variety of jungle roots and herbs, and Maron assured
me it has viagra-like powers. Although I am not at liberty to say
if it works, it will knock your socks off. Jungle Africa puts on
reggae nights every weekend, and African drum and dance events periodically.
B1 Riveru Bld, 2-13-5 Nishi-Shinsaibashi
Open every night except Mondays 17:00 05:00
Nearest station: Shinsaibashi
Like a Lion
The most club-oriented of the three, Zion is a
new addition to the Shinsaibashi scene. It opened its doors last
month, and owner Gabriel Dongo knows his business. He used to run
Culture 1 & 2, and with his events director Koji Kashihara,
he decided to open a unified space. He loves people, he says, and
he wants to give people a place where they can get together, which
is why he is in the bar business. Zion aims to meld African and
African-American culture, with a slant towards hip-hop in terms
of the musical direction, although there is a special reggae event
on the 21st, to follow up a Bob Marley tribute on the 14th. Events
take place on the weekend, with a door charge of ¥1500 for men
and ¥1000 for women. Both include a drink. There are DJ events
every day over Golden Week.
Zion seems to have taken over from Sunsplash, where Kashihara used
to work, as a meeting point for much of the African community. Gabriel,
himself is Senegalese, apparently the only one in Osaka, and is
friendly, going around, making sure his customers feel comfortable
Although the emphasis is on drinking and dancing, there is a fairly
extensive, and international menu, with an African theme. Dishes
like chicken yassa and couscous with chicken or lamb go for around
¥1200, and bar food such as pizza and chicken can be had for
4/F 2-8-33, Nishi-shinsaibashi
Open: 19:00 05:00 every day
Nearest station: Shinsaibashi