For eight years, Maroni Sonelli has been driving his own personally decked-out Disco Taxi. And, to the delight of partygoers all over town, he drives it all night long, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. ‘I never get tired in the Disco Taxi,’ he says in his deep, gravelly voice. ‘I’m always in the mood.’
But what exactly is a disco taxi? Good question. Sonelli says: ‘Yes, well the Disco Taxi is, you know, sometimes people don’t know they are calling an entertainment taxi, and then I pull up and say, “Hey, did you call the Disco Taxi?” and they are always surprised, yes.’
Physically, the Disco Taxi is a van—or ‘spacewagon’, as Sonelli refers to it—with lots of loudspeakers, a TV, DVD player, karaoke system, disco balls hanging from the ceiling and a dashboard full of multicoloured lights and doodads—many of which blink to the beat of the music. Emotionally however, it’s a damn good time.
‘When the clients step inside,’ he explains, ‘I say: “Welcome to the Disco Taxi.”’ He says this into a microphone, which then booms his voice around the vehicle with plenty of reverb added for effect. ‘I see how they like it and then I play a song, like this one.’ He presses play on a remote control and the stereo, about five centimetres away from his hand, begins to play Kool & The Gang’s disco classic ‘Celebration’.
And it plays loud.
‘There are so many speakers inside,’ shouts Sonelli, ‘I don’t even know how many speakers there are. You don’t see them, but you can feel it.’ Even deaf people could have a good time in this car.
His clientele varies, and he’s typically quite busy. ‘People from around the world come here and call me to drive them—every class of people, young and old. You would never know it, but I have lawyers who call me every weekend. Sometimes I have thirty calls in an hour, yes.’
And Sonelli will take you anywhere. ‘If you want to go to Paris or Belgium, it doesn’t matter. If I am not tired, I will go. I went to Paris many times, yes. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes people call me special for the music. They don’t want to go anywhere. We just drive in circles and they like the music, yes.’
But the best part is the price. ‘Some people think I’m more expensive, but I say: “No”. I’m normal taxi prices, just like all the other ones.’ Then he grabs his microphone and starts rapping over the music.
Sonelli, originally from Suriname, began doing this as a result of his love of performing. ‘Every weekend I’m singing for married people in the taxi. I like it, so I do it with no extra charge. I’m singing for the people. But someday, I would like to be singing without the taxi. Ballads are my favourite style, but I like the disco, yes. What I’m doing here is to bring people in the mood.’
At this point, Sonelli notices that this reporter isn’t completely in the mood for disco. ‘What style of music do you like?’ he asks. ‘I have everything—over seven-and-a-half thousand songs. That’s the difference with the Disco Taxi. I like all music. Do you like rock? This is one of my favourite groups from the Nineties.’ He presses play and it’s ‘Paradise City’ by Guns n’ Roses. The video for the song plays on a TV screen mounted on the dashboard, and the lyrics are displayed below it. ‘I find it so sad that you don’t hear nothing about this band no more. They were a very nice group, yes.’
Sonelli taps one of the little disco balls hanging near his rear view mirror. ‘This was given to me by a client seven years ago, and since that time it stays in the car. But I am always adding new things, doing maintenance. I have to pimp my ride. Yes, this is the Disco Taxi, yes.’ He’s very positive and has a never-ending smile. It’s difficult to imagine a more perfect host for a rambunctious night of frolicking around town.
Disco Taxi: 06-54698187