Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nairobi Matatus and their Awful Music

Nairobi Matatus and the Awfully loud Music.
I can talk about music for hours on end. Not the singing part but the sound reproduction part and especially the end product of a sound system. This pretty much makes me an Audiophile. Now before I lose some of your here let’s talk about Audiophiles. Audiophiles are peeps that care so much about sound and audio stuff than the rest of us (us means you in this case). They are also good at it and can tell what is good and what is not. I happen to be such, I am a sound freak, I get annoyed by poor quality audio especially in live events though I am not gonna talk about events here especially the untrained DJs killing us with bad music.

 I am going to talk about the bad Githurai and Umoiner buses killing us with bad music. Let me take you back a little. It is in 2014 and I am fresh from college working as an intern in a government ministry and living in a bedsitter somewhere along Thika Road. My daily routine meant I had to somehow board the ANNOYING Route 45 buses (the infamous Githurai Buses) and man this was the worst part of my days...who fixes sound for these guys?? My mornings and evenings were very ruined by whoever these guys were. I can choke at these memories.

Let me give you a peek into what it means travelling in that bus. So you come to the bus stop half-walking half-running because you are getting late, you find no vehicle so you wait anxiously. 10 minutes later, the big buses appear at a frightening speed and screeches just some meters away from where you guys are standing (you always find a crowd of people in a predicament as yours so you sail in the same boat henceforth). By now the driver has turned down the music and the bus is pretty much ‘boardable’.  You hurriedly get in and because it already had passengers the only seats are available are at the back of the bus. You find yourself a nice seat and sink in with gladness in you - finally you are going to get to work. A minute or two and the bus is full so you start off to town...2 minutes into the journey, the music is turned up and the tweeters are vehemently screaming into your ears...hoping this is all you cringe in your seat and wish for the quickest arrival.

Hardly will you have nursed the tweeter annoyance before you are almost ripped apart by the boom that will come from a rugged woofer placed underneath the backseat. You get fought by the literally hurts physically. It is like someone beating your eardrums with big drum sticks. And the chic friend of mine described it as “Inagongea kwa roho”..because it literally shakes you from within. 20 minutes into the journey and you can barely hear yourself think and so you just gaze at your phone like an immobilized person. And mark you this are not the buses where you read stuff because you can’t...just can’t. Also you can’t talk over the annoyingly loud music, and who even talks to strangers on a public bus? 

The torture will continue and in less than 40 minutes you will be in the CBD and these guys will generously turn down the music once there. A funny thing though is that the ‘Makanga will be told by a bold soul to ‘Punguza’ the volume of the music somewhere in the middle of the short but ear-wrecking journey but will quickly respond “Huyu driver huwa hapunguzi” Once you are out of that bus it will take a cup of hot masala tea with brown mandazis and approximately an hour to get you back to reality – to wade off the sounds of the musical massacre. You’re damned if your board one with a TV screen inside...the noise will be nothing compared to the explicit stuff being shown - you will get out of there a corrupted soul. I once board such and I have never seen so much of behind-shaking as i did in those less than 40 minutes.

So this was what I went through for 3 months every morning and evening and its usually worse in the evenings because they overload so the bus also becomes stuffy....The only thing that differentiates the a Githurai bus and a nightclub is that one is moving and the other is stationary. So I can’t help but wonder which morons fix the sound systems for these buses because one big problem is not the loud music but the poor quality loud music. Nothing sound alright, the woofer is distorted and too boomy for a any size of a bus, the tweeters are too loud for the woofer and they are badly equalized. If you travel in these things for a year you will seriously develop hearing complications along the way.

Note: This is not where you say if its too loud then you are too old..nah...i never complain of loud hometheatres


  1. Actually the system is not even the biggest problem but the people who operate the systems-why for heavenly sake put it at the highest volume mpaka the seats are vibrating?. It is even worse the honking in this buses (githurai ones) they start honking at 3am and stop at midnight. The honk can be heard a kilometre away.

  2. True..I doubt the sobriety of the people that operate the buses..I one saw a guy on weed take over the wheel and I have never been that it think noise is part of their game.

  3. Even King Julian from Madagascar would detest such "booming of the boombox", much as he likes shaking to the loud music.