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A ride on Nairobi's "mobile disco"

By Xihnua
The lights inside the 36-seater minibus in Nairobi flickered as passengers heading home from work streamed in one by one.

It was about 7:30 p.m. local time. Some had arrived at the bus terminus an hour earlier and stood on the queue patiently waiting for vehicles as rains pounded the city on Wednesday. When the minibus arrived, it was a big relief.
All they wanted was to reach home. Soon, the journey from the terminus to Umoja estate, a populous suburb on the east of the capital began. One of the passengers asked the conductor to switch on the lights as
it was nearly pitch dark in the minibus, thanks to its black tinted windows.
The driver of the passenger service vehicle, commonly known as matatu in the East African nation, obeyed the request. However, the passenger got more than he had bargained for. The driver switched on disco lights. Soon, it joined Haille Selassie Avenue, negotiated a  roundabout, and later crossed at an intersection into Landhies Road.
The driver switched on music that at first was soft, but thereafter increased the volume. Soon, music was blaring in the vehicle. It played in sync with the lights, just as it happens in many of the discos in Nairobi. The song was one of those dancehall hits from Jamaica that are popular in Kenya. "Toa hiyo," (change the song), shouted a young man sitting near the driver's cabin. The driver obliged, pressed a button on his music system that skipped the song, and another started to play, again a Jamaican tune. It played in sync with the lights, turning the vehicle into a disco.
Unable to hold himself any longer, the young man who had requested the tune stood up, moved to the vehicle's aisle and started dancing. He threw his hands up in the air as he gyrated in harmony with the popular song. His female friend, all this time who was dancing while seated joined him in the aisle and the two danced.
 At this point, the vehicle had stalled in a massive traffic jam along Jogoo Road, giving the two a better chance to dance as they wished. Soon, the DJ played a tune that resonated with nearly all the passengers, the majority of them youthful.
Some stood up and joined their colleagues in the aisle, others danced while seated. The vehicle soon turned into a full-blown disco as the conductor, who was manning the door with another, and the driver joined the passengers in the dance.
 The DJ did not let the passengers down as he played hit after hit. And the massive traffic jam bettered things for the passengers who had thrown all the caution to the wind. About 30 minutes later, the vehicle had not moved 100 meters thanks to the snarl-up, but nearly 10 songs that put the passengers literally on the toes had played. No one complained of the traffic jam.
A man who attempted to tell the driver to reduce the volume was hushed. "Why have we paid the 1.36 dollars? You should have boarded a vehicle for the old people, and pay the 0.90 dollars. Let us enjoy our fare," a young man shouted at him. About two hours later, the vehicle arrived in Umoja, about 13 km from the city center. Dozens of songs had played with many of the youthful passengers thoroughly entertained.
The vehicle is among many in Nairobi that have installed powerful music system as they seek to attract youthful passengers and charge high fare. Kenya's traffic rules ban the practice, but it seems the matatu operators have found a way of beating the regulations.

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