Saturday, May 14, 2011

From Shadow Suite To Sunshine Sweet: Another Essay On The Art And Science Of Busking

I was discovered at my latest and most frequent buskingdom, the Extra Foods parking lot on Broadway. It was a glorious busking day, warm and windless. I was busking solo, just thrumming random tunes on my banjitar.

Would you like to play at our annual Spring Scavenger Hunt? asked a delightful Dianne, whose business card read Executive Assistant – Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan. Admittedly, rather than the draw of my sweet rhythms; it was the lure of the Canadian Mental Health Association sign that charmed Dianne to be next to me. And the following Saturday I recruited my usual buskmate, Baron, and we entertained (and were entertained) for a couple of hours at the society's annual scavenger fund raiser.

[See picture from left to right:

Scavengineer Osh, self, Bongero Baron, Chef-d'oeuvre Peter]

It was the perfect Saturday for a busk. Fat sizzling bronzed wieners. Raw white onions. Bright yellow mustard. We were set up at the event vanguard, right beside the barbecue and the unflappable Peter, the volunteer chef who grilled his gourmet tube steaks the entire duration of the scavenger hunt.

Over a dozen teams of four members each chased after 25 quarried items strategically scattered around the city of Regina, Saskatchewan. Each team was allowed one vehicle, one camera, and three hours to complete its quest. This was not a tin-pot operation, as there were prizes galore for the hoi polloi who had participated ( including Baron and self who were given designer t-shirts, ice-cold drinks and those gourmet hot dogs, of course!).

In the beginning and long ago, Baron and I started played together in Shadow Suite, a band put together strictly for the free entertainment of people having a mental illness. One of our original members, Dee, who was an awesome vocalist and guitarist and from the mental health community, just couldn't keep her act together long enough to play in public. At one point when we were finalizing our play list, she popped dozens of pills, only to be rescued by Baron, who dialed 911, the act of which saved her life. Last we heard, D was getting married and moving to Alberta.

Another time we had another guitarist, Jay, lined up. But Jay was all talk and never a show. And over the years we've had a variety of musicians express interest, but they too, for the most part have been no-shows.

Here is the skinny from my perspective. Tapping band players from the mental health talent pool is truly an endurance test. The three principal qualities necessary for such ambitious and well intentioned band managers are: patience, patience, patience. Alas, but I am a failed Buddhist, too hyper to practice any of the said virtues. But I can serve in another way – busking!

Busking does demand patience, but not necessarily as its principal agent. Here are some Psychological Candies to crunch on for the art and science of any successful buskingdom:

  • Stay in the crowd. Buskers have to always put themselves out there, but do so among the daylight and nighttime crowds. This is a safety issue. I've been in dark places among scant populations and it can get dangerous.
  • Train yourself to associate busking with pleasure. When it is sunny and windless, busking is always more fun than work. Drizzmal days produce parsimonious people and sunny days produce munificent people. In good weather, more people are prone to stop and chat and express genuine interest and goodwill in your entertaining endeavor.

  • Take a break. I've gotten into the celebrated habit of sitting on the curb and savoring an American decaf at least a couple of times on a busk. Ahh such a simple treat!

  • Get physically fit. It takes stamina to busk and the fitter you are, the better you'll be.

  • Think selfless, not selfish. This is most important! Moving so along that pschologically linear thinking path will always produce rich results. Successful busking is self-expression, not self-promotion.

Being discovered by Dianne that afternoon in the Extra Foods parking lot was just another zenith resulting from the synchronicity and phenomenology of life. Similarly, I was once busking at the Cathedral Arts Street Festival and was there, too, discovered and signed to play at a Dragon Boat Festival.

Generally speaking, doing anything always begets doing another thing.

And in a line – Busking here begets busking there!

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