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BUSKING – The World’s Second Oldest Profession

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busker: musician or actor, usually itinerant; def. Concise Oxford Dictionary. My real guitar playing began on the Poverty Bay river flats in the back of the school bus. It was 1969 and the Maori kids from Waiherere Pa would climb aboard for the 12 mile ride into Gisborne bringing their guitars and songs up to the back seat we had already occupied. The bus was old and slow and had about 10 stops to pick up all the school kids. The maori kids soon had a beautiful old Maori song going with the Kingi brothers playing their very beat  up nylon string guitars, the rest of them all harmonising perfectly for 5-6 songs and by then we would be at school.   I was a new kid on the bus having moved with my parents from Wellington, New Zealands capital city, to a farm on the  rich pasture and fruit land of the Waipoa River flats. My guitar was a birthday present from my parents - a real shiny blond Kawai steel string model. A music subject at  school in Wellington had provided my first knowledge of how to play. The records in my parents collection were  pretty tame. Mainly folk and orchestral, Mitch Miller, Burl Ives, Stanley Holloway and shows like South Pacific,  My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, there were no Beatles or Rolling Stones LPs that is for sure. At school I was  making friends who were getting the pop and rock n roll vibe. Folk music was also popular. I struggled with small  hands over a big wide fret board. My first live concert was New Zealand's truly great and enduring Hamilton County Bluegrass Band.  Soon after that along came the film Woodstock in which I particularly liked Richie Havens use of hard strumming on an  open tuned guitar. I also liked Canned Heat, Santana and John Sebastian and Country Joe and the Fish . I began learning  folk songs like This Train and House in New Orleans. I could also play some Beatle songs like Honey Don't, Hey Jude and  The Ballad of John and Yoko. The difference between rock and folk music was a real source of intrigue for me. I guess I  was ambivalent to NZ pop artists like Ray Columbus, Lee Grant and The La Dee Da's and The Simple Image. Anyway my new Maori friends playing their music on the way into Gisborne each school day really brought another  level of appreciation - and I was soon learning and flirting with polynesian strum patterns. I swapped the shiny  Kawai guitar for a crusty looking but great sounding classical instrument. My parents were horrified as usual.   They had bought me the Kawai to replace my first guitar, a grand old Hofner f hole model I had bought with money  from working as a caddy at Paraparaumu golf course. The Hofner had been smashed to smithereens in an incident  involving an obese boy called Barry who sat on the case. Needless to say I was soon seeing a guitar as a  despensible item if the tone and feel of the instrument was not appealing to whatever style I was into at the time.  It is exciting to experiment with anything at all, but upon discovering the joys of improvisation my interest in  guitar playing started to become obsessional. I began to realise technique and knowledge breakthroughs for a  musician are like keys unlocking doors to rooms full of treasure. But at the time that old folk classical guitar  was the way to advance and succeed. Since then I have enjoyed dozens of guitars. It is a wonderful instrument  allowing self expression at a very basic level or displays of virtuoso dexterity. There is not a guitar shop I can  walk past and these days a lot of my week is taken up performing with guitars, talking about guitars and songs and  songwriting, and looking after the six guitars I have travelling with me. I perform as mainly as a busker, which is how I get to play private gigs at all sorts of venues. My act is a one  man band singing folk and blues song, old time and modern. I sing and play harmonica, jaw harp or kazoo while  picking and strumming any one of a range of string instruments and keep the beat with my two feet using a tamborine,  stomp box and foot bells, all at the same time. If I get the mojo working right I can get a crowd to stop and  listen real quick. Occasionally I collaborate with a mate who plays didgeridoo or tea chest base.   Street performers experience mixed receptions, the best reception being good applause with cash or sales of  merchandise. The worst receptions vary from performer to performer, I have been moved on by police, security  workers, ordinance officers and ordinary old shop keepers. I have never been abused or threatened. I have  performed at markets & fairs, on boats, on trucks, on stages, on a bowling green, at cafes & hotels, at weddings  & birthday parties, at retirement villages and just plain old out there on the street. Often a fifty dollar bill  has been placed in my hat by an appreciative listener. I rarely fail to have a pleasant if not downright  exhilarating experience when I busk in the street. After 5 years of busking I have got my favourite spots and  times to perform.  To work as a busker, there are a few rules to get your head around. Local government bylaws provide guidelines,  stipulate conditions and facilitate licensing for different types of acts. To understand some of the challenges  that street performers face it is best to spend time somewhere famous for it's buskers.  There are lots of international busking festivals and fringe festivals where the vibe, camaraderie ( and occasional rivalry ) between acts adds to much of the atmosphere of a host city . Ferrara Busking Festival in Spain is the world's oldest street performers gathering,  Scotland's Edinburgh Fringe Festival is mecca for every serious street performer. Then there are the CBD malls and  hospitality precincts in towns and cities where buskers entertain people going out to dinner, to the theatre, to clubs etc.  Subways, ferry terminals and other transport hubs are popular for buskers but are often heavily regulated.  For musical buskers understanding the acoustic environment of your busking location is crucial to your success. Alternatively some performers carry out a " gorilla raid " which is the practice of setting up briefly in a thoroughfare  where busking is illegal but lucrative if apprehension is avoided. The gorilla raid is best achieved by good local  knowledge, a sharp lookout and the ability to pack up real quick and run fast carrying your equipment. A lot of people would like to try busking but don't where to start. If your personality is one of a fragile nature you could  find it difficult placing your hat on the street. On the other hand if a bold personality applies to the task of gathering a  crowd the reward for a well performed act can be considerable. Seasoned buskers are there for the crowd and both parties know it. For an audience to show early appreciation with a gold coin or better still a note is a great source of energy and  encouragement to the performer. If an act continues to build a crowd and performs for between 5 - 15 minutes there is an  expectation by the performer to be paid by those who have watched the full performance. Five, ten & twenty dollar notes  should be offered for watching a busker for periods up to and longer than 15 mins particularly for a circle performer.  Circle performers are actors, comedians, puppeteers, jugglers, contortionists who begin their act by attracting attention then  encouraging others to join the crowd in a growing circle. Sometimes another busker or an assistant will carry a hat to collect  the tips , this person is traditionally known as " the bottler ". Coins are appreciated as are applause and comment about the  nature of the performance. Walk by performers are musicians or statue actors who find a location where they sit or stand to  perform and rely more on the donations of people walking past. In Europe the tradition of gypsy buskers is celebrated and  traditionally public performance of music, circus and theatre is both accepted and supported.  Here in Australia and New Zealand, buskers can still be a curiosity in some rural areas but urban environments  increasingly provide street performance opportunies for busking acts of all types. Insurances are carried by  professional buskers to satifsy the indemnity requirements of venue operators and local government.  By supporting buskers in the streets, fair grounds and markets around your town you are in fact sponsoring  public art. Street performers on the Sunshine Coast are both regulated and supported by The Sunshine Coast  Regional Council by the provision and identification of performance areas in public spaces throughout our local  government area. Applications for a street performance license can be made at any time of the year but the  12 month license duration currently begins in June. The Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia is home to a number of talented street performers  some of whom are professional buskers who travel the world to ply their art. You can see them performing at public venues and markets and most are available for private functions. So if you enjoy the public performances provided by buskers on the Sunshine Coast or anywhere else please show your support  by generous donation and remember to applaud, smile and offer thanks. The performers truly appreciate your generosity and  will be further encouraged to keep the happy vibe going on the street. I might just be one of those buskers and hope to see  you enjoying our public amenities and the enhancement that street performance provides.   The 2011 Bulcock Busking Competition is running in conjunction with the Caloundra Music Festival - Oct 7,8 & 9

5 responses to “BUSKING – The World’s Second Oldest Profession

  1. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 11:27 am

    What’s the world’s FIRST oldest profession?

  2. Wilhemina July 12, 2014 at 5:41 am

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  3. March 12, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    I want the midi file of California Gurls – Katy Perry but I dont know where to find it, any ideas?.

  4. March 12, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    It’s not a karaoke video but the actual music video of the song is done in a strange karaoke style where the ball not only bounces off words but off people and misc objects creating a pun in the lyrics… what is the name of this song? =O.

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