Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Malaysian Buskers

(Post: English)
" Nan Blues cuts a lone figure in the bustling alley next to the Central Market, strumming his guitar and singing Bob Dylan's classic song Knockin' On Heaven's Door. "

Oblivious to the music, many people pass by without stopping to listen. But, he's not in the least perturbed, for he's a busker and enjoys singing on the streets.

While he belts out blues, country and western, rock and roll and folk songs, several foreign tourists and locals linger around and drop some money into his open guitar case in appreciation of his performance.

As the afternoon goes by, a good Samaritan gives him a cold drink. Then, a few youths, obviously recognising the musician, mob him. Another group of university students record his music and interview him for their thesis.

It is all part of a normal Saturday afternoon's busking for Nan Blues whose real name is Aznan Aziz.

On weekends, if weather permits, and he's in the mood, you may find him singing near Central Market in the afternoons, at KL Downtown Night Market in Cheras or other places.

"Busking is tiring, but I love music and playing the guitar. I'm earning a living doing something I love. When I sing the blues and country songs, I'm in heaven," he said.

Busking is gaining in popularity and being accepted in KL. It used to be equated with begging until well known musicians like Nan Blues, Meor Yusof Aziddin and others slowly changed that perception.

Nan Blues, 50, who looks 30, once wrote in his blog that he was a garbage collector because he wanted people to understand that it's the person that's important, not his job.

It's hard to picture someone as free spirited as Nan Blues, who once worked as an assistant draughtsman.

Looking more like former heavy metal guitarist Slash of Guns & Roses fame, he said: "I like singing about the ordinary man, the man on the street and songs they can relate to."

"For example, Berita Kepada Kawan by Indonesian singer Ebiet G Ade says humans should be concerned about the world we live in and the environment," he said.

Sometimes, you might find his audience jiving to the beat at the No Black Tie restaurant, Malones Irish Restaurant and Bar at KLCC, and Finnegan's Irish Pub.

"Julian Mokhtar and myself call ourselves the Corn Cake Kings and we play in some pubs," he said.

He loves the creative freedom of busking and thinks that Malaysians and foreigners are generous.

He often gets requests for Hotel California and Deep Purple's Soldier Of Fortune.

Meor, 43, busks at KL Sentral's Art & Rail space, singing songs like Hello, Mrs Robinson and Message In A Bottle.

The busker from Perak, who started playing the guitar in 1984 used to be a product consultant for Yamaha Music. Meor who produced his first album in 2001, is now a guitar tutor in Bangsar Utama.

He has been busking for about 10 years at Central Market, uptown Damansara, and Jalan Alor, among other places.

"I love busking because there is more freedom of expression. Besides giving me good practice, I sell my products directly to my consumers."

"Busking is all about passion. Don't go into it for the money because money is not guaranteed," he said.

He loves the music of Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Dan Fogelberg and The Police, which are part of his repertoire of over 200 jazz, blues, rock and folk songs.

Buskers, too, have many fans. Meor's fan, Fauzi Lebai Abdullah was spotted choosing a CD from a guitar case displaying Meor's CD albums and books.

"Buskers are 100 per cent artistes and have art in their blood," Meor said.

He said his music came from his heart and was original compared with "manufactured" music on TV and reality shows.

"More attention should be given to buskers as they are potential music ambassadors for the nation and can represent the country overseas," Fauzi said.

Zulhasyemi Mohammad Shafie (Amy), Farah Idayu Kamsari, Muzaffar Shah Asrinan (Muza), Ali Mulhakim Akhmad and Mohd Izham Baharum were seen busking at Kelana Mall's flea market.

For Farah, 21, the rose among the thorns, busking is her way of building up her self-confidence.

The Johor lass who plays the acoustic guitar is studying actuarial science in Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam.

The multi-talented Farah, a big fan of Taylor Swift, never fails to attract the public's attention.

She said: "From Swift's Love Story and White Horse, Avril Lavigne's Complicated, to my own songs such as Rock Star and Anonymous, are what I like to sing."

During a visit to London, she found buskers were respected there and made good pickings.

Muza, whose guitarist father Lo Len moulded him into a guitar-strumming musician, takes people down memory lane with 70s classic rock such as Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin and Ready For Love by Bad Company.

Blind buskers can be seen in many parts of the city. For them, busking is a bread-and-butter matter and their repertoire is relatively limited.

A middle-aged Malay couple along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman was heard crooning P. Ramlee and dangdut songs.

Although they refused to be interviewed, the writer saw 12 people drop money into their wooden box within 30 minutes.

In Jalan Masjid India, another blind, elderly couple who were busking there, quickly packed up and left in a cab which appeared suddenly without being called.

Were they part of a syndicate? One wonders.

Though foreigners are more generous, Malaysians are getting big-hearted, according to the buskers.

Source: NST Online

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