Hidden deep inside the meandering alleyways of Kenyatta Market one man fights hard to keep Kenya’s vinyl culture alive. Close to the meat market you will find James ‘Jimmy’ Rugami, who has been selling vinyl at stall 570 since 1989.

The Broken Record Player

In the 1980s Jimmy was trading clothes in Meru, a town at the foothills of Mount Kenya, when a broken record player gifted to him by his brother kickstarted his new life-changing business venture. “As soon as I fixed the machine I drove to Nairobi and spent all my savings on records. That was 1986”.

"I used to spin mostly African stuff – local records in Kikuyu and Kamba language and few in Zairua, the music of current day Democratic Republic of Congo”

— James "Jimmy" Rugami


Jimmy’s large collection soon spread word and he started DJing at clubs and army barracks. “I loved life in the fast lane, with all the partying and the ladies,”Jimmy reminisces, but the intense DJ lifestyle took its toll and he decided to move his family to Nairobi in search of stability. In 1989, legendary Kenyatta Market stall 570 started selling music, crammed between butchers selling beef, goat and chicken meat.

“I used to drive all the way to Dar es Salaam, then take a boat to Zanzibar and buy tapes there. That’s where people were supplying the best stuff, especially jazz, which in Nairobi was either unavailable or very expensive.”

- James 'Jimmy" Rugami


Jimmy’s shop has survived the decline of vinyl, the rise of tapes, the birth of CDs and the domination of digital music by adapting to the changing trends. In its early years it sold mainly tapes, but while vinyl wasn’t selling at all, a hunch told Jimmy to keep collecting anything he found, and he soon accumulated a large collection of foreign and African records. Sometimes he wouldn’t sell a record for 6 months, but he kept digging.

"The mere availability of these classics and forgotten recordings have helped turn young people onto their musical heritage.”

— Thomas Gesthuzien

Jimmy believes that it would be a great loss for future generations to forget their musical history, and is always keen to pass on his knowledge to younger customers. Despite the fact that it sells record, the shop is more like a museum, a testament to all the different styles of music that were released across different regions in Africa. It is an essential reference to the new wave of African musicians, DJ’s and creators and is one of the few beacons fighting hard to keep the vinyl spirit alive.

If you’re ever in Nairobi, make sure to stop by Jimmy to support this saint! You can always call/text/whatsapp him up on +254528797/637474


Shop No. 570,
Kenyatta Market, Ngummo
Nairobi,  Kenya