These young spirited musicians have been busking on the street for half a year in 2012. The band consists of students from different universities. Namely, RMIT, Melbourne University and Monash University. Their passion for music can be illustrated through their practices and a small concert opened for their friends (shown in the pictures above). In order to open this concert they had to earn the funds from busking on the street. One of the member from the Fakepath said that because of their passion for music it was not difficult to consistently busk on the street. Moreover, the practices had to be done in a rented room hence monetarily it was not easy for them. Despite the difficulties they have come through by “rocking as a team.” They have also said that they will continue to busk on the street and if possible until “they return to the soil.” The music was great and they have encapsulated the audience with their gestures and gigs. The Fakepath’s main style of music was indipop, but the members mentioned that they love playing other genres such as jazz, metal and blues too. It was a great opportunity for me to listen to their music and I would love to see them on the street busking their hearts out with their passion and love for music.
From Mie prefecture
Came to Australia in 2001 following musical activities throughout Japan and New Zealand.
Performs live on Melbourne streets and in pubs.Received first place in the 2004 Australia Country Music Busking Championship.
From Chiba prefecture.
Started learning to play shamisen at 6 years of age. Came to Melbourne as a Japanese language assistant. Has been performing shamisen on the streets and at various festivals in order to let more people know about Japanese culture.
Bourke Street was bustling with shoppers despite the cold wind, and standing in the centre of the crowd were George Kamikawa wearing a cowboy hat and Noriko Tadano wearing a bright yellow kimono. After a brief self-introduction from George, the pair quickly dived into performance.
The sound of George’s harmonica, guitar and drum was profound and his singing carefree. Along with that was Noriko lightly tapping away on her foot and the sound of her crispy clear Tsugaru-jamisen that echoed across the streets.
Then all of a sudden, the crowd started moving their bodies and dancing to the music as they enjoy the performance of the two people who grasped Australia’s attention. The unit’s popularity was clear from the number of children and adults who asked for their autograph and photos during the break.
– What do you think it is about your performances that attract Australians?
N: I think it’s because of the combination of George’s performance of western music and mine of eastern music by the shamisen. I often hear people say that this is really unique and that they have never seen such thing.
G: I have never seen this kind of style before as well. You hear about shamisen with rock or pop music in Japan but not with blues, so I wanted to try this at least once.
– How do you feel about your performances being acknowledged?
N: I’m really happy, especially because I still receive so much support even though I’ve left Japan. Not only do I receive encouragements from Japanese but also from Australians.
– What does busking mean to you two?
G: For me this is the main source of income so I’m basically relying on it. Of course there are live performances too but they don’t come every day so busking is how I support myself. I’ve been doing this since 10 to 15 years ago and have been happily making a living out of music.
N: I also enjoy it very much. For me it’s like killing “four” birds with one stone. I get to practice, connect with audience by asking them “how about coming to the next event?” and develop my confidence. It’s a good way for boosting confidence … as long as the weather is good.
(Buskers in China)
(Buskers in Melbourne)
As what I wrtote about buskers in China in the last two blogs, some comparisons can be draw to show the difference between buskers in China and Australia.
Who is busking in these two place?
In China, it is common to see the old people or the disable busking on the street. They usually from the lower level of the society and most of them are jobless and can’t live a life well. So they do busking for living though it is still hard as money from busking is their only income. However, in Australia, buskers are consist of different age groups from teenagers to the elderly. Most of these people are from the middle level of the society, some are travelling buskers, some are educated, some have an ordinary job and some are even rich. They don’t really take busking as a job or the only way to earn money.
How’s their performance?
As these Chinese buskers are at their late years and some are even disable, they are not professional artists. But in Australia, buskers can usually bring us a wonderful performance. They practice a lot because they can’t get any money or attention if they are not good at performing. The other buskers are really competitive. Also the buskers in Australia have multiple forms of performance result from the multi-cutural background which is rarely seen in China.
How do people interpret buskers and how do the buskers interpret themselves?
Busking is undignified in most Chinese’s perspective. They think if you are not disable, you should earn money by your hands. Even washing dishes in the restaurant or cleaning jobs are much better than busking on the street. Busking is nothing different from begging as people never really pay attention to your performance but giving you money because of the compassion. Buskers usually facing discrimination from others so they also consider themselves as poor and pathetic. Especially when the police or security guards come to drive out them from performing on the street, they feel ashamed and sometimes suffer from humiliation. But in Australia,buskers need to get a license to perform on the street. Good performance can earn them the acclaim of the audiences. Most of them start busking because they want to have a big platform that can show themselves to more people. Some of them use busking as a way to practice so that they can improve their performance. Buskers gain more confidence from performing on the street but not looking down at themselves. They think they are artists and every people walking by is their audience so the street does become a good stage for them.
So generally, because of the different culture, different levels of democracy and economic development, buskers are really different in China and Australia from the people, their background, the reason they do busking to the social status they have and the way people treat them. Briefly, buskers in China are people who ‘need money’ while buskers in Australia are people who ‘need a platform’. Consequently, people in these countries consider buskers in a total different way, the former are regarded as ‘beggar’ while the latter are recognized as ‘ street performer’ or even ‘artists’.
These are the common buskers people can see on the street in China. It is a fact that most of them are old people or even the disable. Young buskers are rarely seen because people consider a busker as a beggar so if one is neither old or disable, he or she should get a normal job. Also, people giving money to these buskers are driven by their sympathy and compassion but not because they really enjoy or appreciate their performance.
In this sense, a young busker seems to be unusual. Here is a interview with a young busker in Beijing made by South China Morning Post. We can know more about the Chinese buskers from it. http://www.scmp.com/node/566904. If it is in Australia, it is hard for a normal young busker to appear on the newspaper. But in this case, he is described as a ‘young’and ‘educated’ ‘dreamer’ in the article, which shows that a ‘young, educated’ busker is seldom seen in China.
What’s more, as the interview mentions, ‘ What sort of trouble do buskers get into?’, we can know that ‘Interruptions from police, security guards or from other administrative workers. Anyone who can intervene usually does’, which means in China, people don’t have get a license for busking but they are doing a thing that runs counter to the policy.
It is also worth to notice these two questions, first, ‘Have you ever felt busking is undignified because you sometimes have to sing alongside beggars?’. The young guy’s answer is ‘In the beginning, I was a little concerned, but gradually I came to feel this had nothing to do with anyone else. Nobody cares about what others do. It doesn’t matter’; Second,’Do your parents know what you do in Beijing?’ and the answer: ‘No. I told them I’m working as a teacher. I don’t want them to worry about me. They want me to live a stable life, and want me to get married and buy a house’. It demonstrates what I said in the last blog, buskers are facing discrimination and usually be regarded as beggars in China.
Let me tell you stories about these photos first.
In Hangzhou, which is a famous tourist site in China, this elderly man usually show up around the train station. He has been an ERHU busker (Chinese 2-string fiddle) for 2 years in this city. At his age of 70s, he supports himself by performing on the street.
This is a craftsman who molds clay figurines on the street in Xi’an, China. One of his sons is in Beijing as a worker while the other is studying in the college in Beijing. Part of his income from selling clay figurines on the street goes to paying school fee for his younger son, in the meantime, his cost of living also comes from this money. Although molding clay figurines is rarely seen and losting in transmission, one figurine is not more than 1 dollar ( 5 rmb).
He is from Uighur ethnic group of Xinjiang. He moved to shanghai and began his busking life in the central of the city. He plays the traditional flute of his minority group-Weiwuer to attract people to buy the traditional snacks he sells because no one will give him money for his performance.
I took these two pictures when I was in Guangzhou for holiday. These group of old people are retired artists from a Yu opera troupe from Henan Province (Yu). Everyday before going to the street, it takes them two hours to make up and dress up. They never neglect any detail as they want to perform well as what they did the troupe even though few people willing to pay for their performance now. They have been appeared in the local newspaper for many times but it haven’t changed the quality of their life.
From these stories, it is obvious to tell what I found out about buskers in China. First, they tend to be poor people from the bottom of the society. Even though they are living in big cities, they are not actually part of the city as they live a hard life and can not enjoy the welfare a citizen has like health insurance and endowment insurance. Most of them are at their middle age or even their later years but still have to support themselves or even their families. Importantly, most of them feel they are discriminated by others and be recognized as beggar so few of them regard themselves as a busker while most of them even don’t know what is busker.
I did an informal interview with my friend Wilson, who is a busker in Melbourne. Here is a fragment of the conversation between us.
C：Wilson, I don’t think busking is a good job as you are holding a working visa, you are not supported financially by your family, busking..is even not a job for you, right?’
W：Definitely busking is not a job, it is my love.
C：Hey, I’m serious, I mean, how do u live a life in Melbourne. You have to pay your rent, your living expenses, you even have to make these CDs (Wilson has made two albums by himself and sale them while performing).I don’t think you can earn a lot from busking.’
W：You are right. They money I make is vary from day to day. I can’t guarantee every day’s income from busking. I have been to the farm for three month before, I got paid a lot. That’s pretty enough.
C：So you don’t treat busking as your job?’
W：um…I organize a regular busking and I am strict with myself so I practice playing guitar and writing songs every day. In this sense, busking is a job. But you know it is easy to get bored in a routine… When I was working in that farm, I felt time passed so slowly, three month is freaking long. This is how you feel to a job. It is hard to endure.’
C：Sure, I felt bored after have worked for just one month.’
W：But I never feel busking is boring. So in this sense, busking is my life style. Also, busking is not a job cuz I don’t get pay regularly you know.’
C：Haha, you are so cool Wilson. So you mean, if someone need to a set amount of money coming is every week, never think about being a busker.’
W：That’s true. Busking is far too unpredictable. For many buskers, busking is their ‘part time job’. But for me, busking is my life, from Taiwan to Australia. My visa will expire this year. I want to travel to more countries, and …continue busking.’
C：Awesome! But Wilson, do your parents know that you are busking but now working in Melbourne? I know many parents, especially Asian families, they think busking is nothing different from begging…
W：I started busking when I was an university student in Taiwan. They couldn’t accept it at the beginning but now I gain their comprehension. I never ask them for money when I travel and busking in foreign countries.
C：Your Parents are also cool I think.
W：I told them, I want to live, not just to exist. Busking makes me find the meaning of life. That’s what you can’t find in your office my friend.