Turn it down, Mr. DJ!

It’s not called ‘public’ transport for nothing. The public is made up of people, and people, well, have their own traits that rub us all a bit differently. Or am I just being a bit selfish?

I like quiet trips. I try to carry a book or a magazine or something with me (I’m presently reading British magazines). But there’s a reason I can’t get any reading done in the confines of the smoke-coughing trotro. Noise. For whatever reason, I can stand the engine sounding off like two stone age men clubbing themselves silly over a piece of salted dinosaur thigh. I can stand the babies’ piercing cries that could shatter glass and bone. I can even stand the revolting snorting and throat-clearing, but what I can’t stand is … the phones. Welcome to the 21st century.

So, there was this one day when all the phones around me seemed to be ringing. China phones, mostly, with their distinct ringtones.

From China with love

It didn’t help much that we were caught in the thick of traffic. The clearly frustrated driver was trying to meander his way through anything which remotely resembled a short cut. No luck there. He was impatiently mumbling to himself in no time. Outside, the sun was spitting out painful rays, each pricking the nerves so sharply, you’d think we were at war with the universe. I was slowly getting irritable.

Then, somewhere around 37 Military Hospital, a shrill version of the Bridal March sounded over the loud knocking of the engine. The driver didn’t bother turning down the radio’s volume for his passenger. My neck was rotating like an owl’s, looking for the guilty party. I imagined a newly-wed who had chosen to relive her happy day with each phone call. From two rows back, I heard this gruff voice with a thick Ga accent say hello and go on in Ga. Since I couldn’t understand Ga even with a loaded gun to my head, I was left to wonder why of all his ringtones he chose the Bridal March.

I think the only ringtone worse than that is “Jingle Bells”. In June. Oh, and “Happy Birthday to You”. Happy birthday to who? Yourself? A few years ago, it was fashionable to change your ringtone to match the season. Those were the Dark Ages of mobile telephony, the days when the polyphonic ringtone was the in thing.

My jaw dropped to the rusted floor when I heard him say in Ga, “I’m at Kaneshie”.  Looks like I was the only one who was surprised at the poor man’s obvious unawareness of his present location, because nobody even flinched.

Now, since I don’t know what he was talking about, I have no idea if he was talking to the same person the second time the Bridal March interrupted the stillness of the atmosphere. Or the third. Or the sixth. Obviously, the bride was having trouble reaching the altar, because that tune rang up every few minutes all the way from 37 till I got down! And each pam-pam-papammmm was driving me up the walls. The steam coming out of my ears could cook kenkey. I couldn’t get out of the car faster when we arrived at Ridge. The Bridal March serenaded me out.

A constantly ringing phone is bad enough. A phone that NEVER stops ringing is more maddening than a skipping CD. A phone starts ringing. The track’s still playing. I wonder why the owner isn’t picking up. It goes on and on … and then, I realize that it’s some scrawny youth with a scowl on his pimply face playing some music that he assumes everyone is interested in. Frankly, I don’t think he cares.

Thank you, Mr. DJ, for playing my song... (Ummm, not really)

(“Aha aye de oo, aha aye de oo oo oo, baabia awu!” Trotro? That’s where he says is nice and everywhere else is dead?) There he goes, the DJ, loudly blaring it for all to hear. What’s worse, the playlist is never right. First a hip-hop track plays, then some ballad. I remember secretly warming up to a song once, but just as I was about to hum along to the chorus, Mr. DJ flipped the track and started singing tunelessly to some rubbish hip-life track. In my mind’s eye, I’d rammed his phone down his throat.

One time, there was this dude who took it to a whole new level. Radio! Forget about reading that book, son. The guy behind you insists on Obonu FM for us all. I turned to see who this was, and he was actually dozing, his head resting on the window.

These Troski DJs. I guess I just don’t have the courage to say, “Massa, you dey disturb we, or you sef, you no dey see?” Nobody seems to mind, so me, I just sit my somewhere, hoping that this traffic will clear up so that I can get out and leave them to enjoy their little party that they got going there, with the ‘Phoney DJ’ in his full element.


About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse and twin boys Mark and Andrew, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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37 Responses to Turn it down, Mr. DJ!

  1. Nicholas says:

    Bridal march paaaaaaaa

    that is so funny. Plus it was a Ga man . Just imagining the scene got cracking up.
    thanks bro . a gud read .
    Hope all is well with u

  2. Raj says:

    nice piece couldn’t help laughing all the way through

  3. Ama says:

    At least you have no fear of being stabbed if you send dirty looks in his direction, unlike some other places I could mention!

    You should do a piece on the kind of indiscreet phone conversations you’ve overheard.

  4. Chika says:


  5. Sebastian says:

    These China fones and their peculiar ringtone sound is really piercing even to a deaf person’s eardrum.
    I once had to listen to a guy confront his girlfriend on fone in a trotro that she is a cheat and it was really vulgar.That conversation really needed a PG or 18yrs rating.I saw a mother frown cos her seven year old was sitting on her laps.
    He spoke freely in the troski not giving a hoot where he was and oblivious of the fact that where their rights end is where someone else’s rights begins.That was a great piece man.Keep it up

  6. larry says:

    this is funny…. so will u say about my experince.. it was no bridal march track but alahji alahji kudukudukudukudukudu..

  7. Sis says:

    Ha ha, I had tears streaming down my cheeks!

  8. RAY JAY says:

    You’ve got skillzzz man….had me laughing through the entire read….gud one.

  9. Dee says:

    Hahaha, cracked me up! I’ve actually heard the jingle bells ring tone in the middle of the year before! Great piece Kwaku, keep it up!

  10. Ekow says:

    Got to hand it to you, your columns are ingenious!
    Reminds me of a similar encounter on a metro bus (Jumbo trotro).

    I was just getting settled for the long journey when this Guy’s obnoxiously loud polyphonic ring tone went off. Initially I thought the guy must be fast asleep, but then I realised you’d have to be dead (not even deaf) to sleep through such an ear-jarring ring tone. This bloke very much a member of the living was obviously apprehensive of his caller and just let the damn phone ring till exhaustion.
    The unfortunate thing for the rest of us was that the caller was a very persistent one. You’d think this bloke would have the common decency to put his phone on silence but no, we were persistently abused by the same piercing ring tone over and over again until half-way through the journey, someone snapped and launched a verbal rebuke that was soon joined in by everyone fed up with the annoying ring-tone.

    That got him to finally pick the call and reluctantly address his caller. Needless to say the calls didn’t end there, but at least we were no longer being exposed to an endless onslaught of protracted ringing.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Don’t you just love that about Ghanaians? Nobody will say a thing till one person speaks up. Then, and only then, do we come crawling out of the woodwork, each voicing his or her displeasure about whatever’s going on. And when that happens, boy, is the offending party going to get it!

      • Francis Adu-Gyamfi says:

        Truth is, we try to be civil in all circumstances and give the person the benefit of the doubt, because we ourselves could do the same thing at some other point in time.

        However, if the individual finally crosses the point of no return for our generous civility, then to put it kindly, “verbal hell will break loose”

  11. Guy Lou says:

    Stupidity pervades because a lot of fellas refuse to act on it. Will posterity have to suffer as well? Next time, speak up.

  12. Kwadan says:

    These China phones are a real menace. There was a time I was in a trotro and this guy was playing music so loudly, it was so annoying. I felt like giving him an earful but one look at him told me, dont mess with this “zongo”. I suffered in silence. To add insult to injury the guy wouldnt let the track end then he changes it. It as a painful journey.

  13. Law says:

    hehehehehehe…. a great read, Kwaku. I am still in giggles!

  14. slimpo says:

    Another beautiful piece. I kept on wondering when the next one was going to come.Now that i have read it, the cycle begins again……when is the next one.lol

  15. moshi says:

    for this piece, i would enjoy all through this week. well am a greedy boy so am gong to keep it to my self. but i just remembered am also a christian sharing is caring…………..

    big ups man. you dare our interest in this articles and you always seem to have your way around us. thanks man, keep it up. i would be waiting two week for the next one. try your tricks again , i would fire you at church…………

  16. Tosin says:

    Good one again…you make me wanna start up a blog, now trotro is taken, I’ll write about China phones!!!(hehe)

  17. richard says:

    lolz. chale! if looks could kill and leave no witnesses…sigh. Good read man…

  18. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    So, has anyone come close to telling anyone to quit trying to be a DJ, or been so worked up by it all but for the sake of gentility didn’t say a thing and suffered in silence?

  19. Marian says:

    oooooooooo, i am at the cafe reading this, the guy sitting by may think i am reading some love letter or something, this so good and a right hit on the nail

  20. Mammie says:

    Lol Obonu FM paaa lol…i really feel ur pain…really good piece!!!!!!

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      I guess you folks better hurry up with your Bus Rapid Transport thing oo… And it had better be a more comfortable alternative. Or am I wishing for too much?

  21. Elorm says:

    You should be glad you were even able to make out the song they were playing and even more thankful a choir did not start in the car. And may be yes, you are wishing for too much if u thing that the kind of bus will change the kind or attitude of the people who board it. Nice piece by the way. I like the writing.

  22. Elorm says:

    Kwaku, You will be amazed to learn that I once took a trotro from Tema to medina and there was a lady ( for lack of appopraite word allow me to call her so) sitting just behind me and she was more than a Chine phone. The tah- tah- tah of the gum she was chewing could make us all deaf if the journey had gone beyound Madina. Worse part, the look she wore, with all my outspokenness I could not dare tell her to keep it down and every disapproving look I cast in her direction only seem to increase the volume of the irritating sound blasting from her mouth. You can imagine what sort of journey I had.

  23. nallie says:

    To your May20 (4.18pm) question. *This myt be a long reply. forgiv me..i just hav to let it out. and what better place than here?*
    [This story’s abt the trotro radio though, not someone’s phone]

    I was like the 4th person to enter the trotro loading at a station (I sat at the back). out of nowhere, a hand reaches beyond the steering wheel, vigorously turns the knob of the radio and disappears. (I really don’t know why some 207 drivers choose to install CPU-sized speakers at all four corners of the already crowded vehicle.) The piercing voices of some peace FM presenters are poking at my ear drums, and all of a sudden, my head feels heavy. the guy by me looks at me and mumbles something about how loud the radio is. A few others who come in also appear irritated by the noise. We look around for the mate but he’s busily showing off his marketing skills.

    Only 2 minutes more…2 minutes, I tell myself, the car will be full soon and I can ask the driver or mate to reduce the volume as soon as they get in. It will be over soon. U can do this. That’s how I survived the next 2 minutes. Soon, the time was up. The car was full; driver and mate were “strapped in” and the engine was revving noisily. Being at the back, the mate was closer, so I mumbled “Mate” (I hate talking to anyone in trotros). A little louder “MAte”..”MATE!”. The people sitting closer to him didnt even bother to help me call his attention. He slowly turned his face toward me. Then with my sweetest voice (in Twi): “Please tell the driver to…”

    “…lower the volume of the radio”. Oh, why the break? The mate practically rolled his eyes at me and stuck his head outside for “fresh air”. And they stayed wher they wer, throughout the journey from 37 to Lapaz: both his head and the volume. I had some heads turn toward me with blank expressions. Where were all those irritated people? Evn the guy by me betrayed me. I was heart-broken. Ashamed to the core of my being. Blood rushed speedily into every facial vein.

    I stuck my earpieces into my ears and played some cool music from my phone (music i couldnt evn hear through all the noise!). In retaliation, when the mate asked for my money (without evn lookin at me..I still want to believe he was ashamed), i kind of rolled my eyes at him n refused to pay (i admit this in shame). When the ordeal was over n i got down, i took out coins n told him to be careful how he behaves toward strangers cos he doesnt know me from anywhere(the only thing i could muster courage to say…and he responded “Yes, Madam”. I hope that was a gud kind of “yes, MADAM”.

    MORAL OF THE STORY: Fellow passengers are not your friends.

  24. Torsky says:

    kwaku u must be sick!.. u actually think u can enjoy a peaceful ride in a trotro and actually read?….u are nuts!!…
    btwn…as for de china phones, when it rings it can give u a shock n even make u deaf…goodness, i remember once i almost threw a passenger sitting by me’s phone out de window. it had such cacophony of rings tht i almost punched pugilised him. the most annoying, is especially if they put de radio on laud in the trotro, whiles the driver too has his on…hmmm…chaley e no be easy man!

  25. Afreh-Sika says:

    Kudos Kwaku…..this is typical of ”MODERN GHANA”…. I don’t mean to side with the DJs but just try and manage or if possible accommodate these side effects of modernity. I’m saying this in relation to my experience in DR Congo. Kwaku! I always count myself blessed to be a Ghanaian anytime I go to town. Could u believe that the locals still drive both left and right hand? This means that they can overtake from both sides and there is nothing like blind side to a driver. For comfort in their TROTRO – forget! Their trotro seats are made of wood or better still benches-likes those in one man churches, however, you will always find someone busily sleeping in a noisy and dusty trafic. I MISS HOME!!!

  26. joy says:

    well done kwaku, reading your pieces makes me pray that one day soon everyone in Ghana will be able to read and write to laugh as much as reading this has made me laugh. Where do you think you are, on a london commuter train?? To read a British magazine?? You must be joking right? Next time speak up hahahahah if you dare

  27. afia says:

    hehehe…. i am at the office reading this and my colleagues had read to understand why i was laughing so had. they couldnt help with the laughter too. you should see us

  28. Ethel says:

    In my mind’s eye, I’d rammed his phone down his throat. … lol thats is classic

  29. Efo Dela says:

    I once had a similar experience on the Spintex road and wrote it out into a poem on my phone just to help me cope with the frustration.
    The link is below


  30. I actually was basically hunting for recommendations for my own web
    site and noticed ur post, “Turn it down, Mr.
    DJ! | The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge”, will you care in the event that I actually
    work with some of your own tips? Thanks a lot ,Elden

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