WATCH: Mr. Nematillo, a singing ethnic Uzbek taxi driver in Chicago
When it comes to famous taxi drivers, the first image that comes to many Westerners' minds is Travis Bickle, alias Robert De Niro, standing in front of a mirror and asking, "You talkin' to me?"
It's likely to be a more genial vision in Chicago, however, where Mr. Nematillo, a young ethnic Uzbek cab driver of increasing fame, serenades his lucky customers in both Uzbek and English.
Mr. Nematillo records many of his performances and posts the videos to his YouTube channel
. He makes his own accompaniment on a computer, using Adobe to create karaoke-style tracks without lyrics.
Though he is now a cab driver, Mr. Nematillo says he studied business at a university in Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan. That education might explain why his father, when interviewed by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, said he was not pleased with his son's chosen profession.
For all of Mr. Nematillo's creativity, it turns out that he's not Chicago's first pioneer in the art of the taxicab serenade. That city is also home to urban legend Ray Saint Ray, a singing taxi driver who, according to his MySpace page
, has been writing and performing for 19 years. One Yelp commenter
describes Ray Saint Ray as:
"an amazing cab driver, a wonderful singer, [with] a wealth of knowledge, an expert at witty repartee, and a snazzy dresser. He is extremely entertaining and his cab is remarkably clean and pleasant. What more could you want?"
WATCH -- Chicago's first taxicab crooner and urban legend Ray Saint Ray:
In a highly amusing interview with RFE/RL, Ray Saint Ray said he had never heard of Mr. Nematillo.
"What's his name again? Uzbekistan? Let's call him Stan."
Ray Saint Ray was very clear about his position as the world's premier singing cab driver, addressing the potential threat posed by Mr. Nematillo by dictating the following quote to RFE/RL, including punctuation and capitalization:
"There are many cab drivers in this world who sing and some who sing quite well, but none of them can claim to be that urban legendary, 21st-century, son of the singing cowboy movies, the Mother-effing Theresa of showbiz, that white Tom Jones, RAY SAINT RAY THE SINGING CAB DRIVER. All rates reserved."
Neither cab driver charges extra for their crooning. As Mr. Nematillo puts it, "I am just one crazy guy who is trying to have fun."
Alas, much to the dismay of their fans, there is no way to request Ray Saint Ray or Mr. Nematillo. Whether or not one of them is behind the wheel of the next cab that pulls over for you is up to the cosmic forces of the universe. And Lady Luck.
-- Joanna Kinscherff