Coastweek -- As
we continue to look at the different matatu “tribes” and clans,
we will this week look at the fourth clan from the Nairobi
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
The fourth sub tribe
or clan is the one manifests itself as the thirty-two seater
moves from being a simple box with basic painting of the
operator’s logo to a more sophisticated creation.
seaters that we have do not start life as a matatu.
They actually start
life as a truck chassis.
They are born to be
three tonne trucks as opposed to growing up to be matatus.
However, our body
building gurus in the country discovered a niche need and
developed a local variant of a bus based on the truck chassis.
per cent of the thirty-two seater matatus that ply the roads in
Kenya are bus bodies that have been built on top of a truck
additions and all the embellishment of the exterior for a lot of
these buses start at the assembly and are then completed at the
bus builder’s workshop.
This is where the
overall shape is decided.
One can see the
evolution of the build of these matatus.
They started off
with the rectangular loaf look that one still finds in school
buses and many government and institutional buses as well.
This has progressed
to a point where some of the matatus we see on the roads are
mobile works of art.
The exterior of the
fourth clan of matatus is characterised by bold and garish
expressions mainly through painting of caricatures or murals.
embellished by chrome fittings and fairing and flaring of
various extremities of the bodywork.
Added to all this
are various flaps, wings and ailerons.
Your average matatu
looks like a cross between a traditional bus and a formula one
The only difference
is that the external embellishments are static whereas on a
formula one car they move and have a specific function.
Other things that
are added to this work include lighting at various parts of the
anatomy that can either be static lighting, linked to the
vehicle’s sound system to be like disco lights or to a
synthesiser so that the lights chase each other or follow a
pre-set or random pattern.
Such matatus become
a menace and are dangerous at night as it can cause some drivers
to lose orientation when driving.
Other items added
include multi tune horns that can be switched at each stage to
differentiate the vehicles noise from the others.
This feature can
also be used to be a defining cry from matatus from a particular
owner or SACCO.
The exhausts also
make different noises depending on the type of silencer fitted.
The more popular
exhaust systems include what are called exhaust modulators that
can be used to change the sound that an exhaust makes.
used to control braking in diesel engines, these devices have
increased in sophistication that they can now be used in almost
any type of engine to generate specific exhaust noises.
They no longer act
as exhaust brake components but more like pianos.
The final thing that
these matatus have that is very different from the other matatus
is the in-vehicle entertainment systems.
Just like in planes,
they have in seat TV screens that allows one to watch personal
videos as they travel in the matatu.
There is also the
option of listening to a very loud surround system that is
sometimes connected to the showing on the in-seat TV screen.
The incredible thing
is that despite the differences in the level of opulence or
offering, these matatus do not charge an arm and a leg for the
They rely on these
extras to attract custom so that they are always full.
These sub clans of
the matatu tribe of Nairobi survive peacefully and one will find
a sprinkling of all the types of matatus even if there is a
dominant type on each particular route.
The one thing that
is common amongst all the matatus despite their sub clan is that
they all speak the same language – recklessness and impunity.
This language is the
same across all the different tribes that include the ones
described in the semi-arid as well as the Western parts of
As Kachumbari says,
this is one language that needs to be modernised!
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