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DBS’ Buskers by the Bay: Local Buskers Provide Insight On Singapore’s Busking Scene

One of the highlights at DBS Marina Regatta, DBS’ Busking by the Bay will showcase a captivating line-up of local buskers livening the event up with their knack for entertainment. Held at The Promontory at Marina Bay from Friday, 31 May to Sunday, 2 June 2019, visitors can expect four hours of non-stop entertainment — from some of the best local buskers Singapore has to offer.

In addition to Busking by the Bay, the DBS Marina Regatta will also play host to various activities, including free sailing lessons, craft workshops and Singapore’s largest eco-maze.

Some of the buskers who will be performing at DBS’ Busking by the Bay are Jonathan Goh, Cheng Wei and Young Yee from The Unemployedd, Aida Tay and Marcus Lee. They shared with us on how they got into busking, as well as personal insights on the local busking scene.

How did you get into busking?

Busking by the Bay - jonathan (annoying bros)
Jonathan Goh

Jonathan: (Edwin and I) had inspirations to busk in the street as we saw many other foreign artists in the street performing but one of our biggest inspirations that gave us the push was when we attended Sentosa Buskers Festival as an audience and got to see the various international buskers perform. We decided to apply for the busking card. As we started discussing, we realised we could be a duo act instead of just solo acts. That was when we decided to collaborate and started the Annoying Brothers.

Young Yee: (Cheng Wei and I) were looking for a medium to continue performing, as we both love the thrill of bringing our music to people through our choir. With busking, we were able to do that with our favourite songs, to an even wider range of audiences.

Was it difficult to obtain a Busking Card?

Busking by the Bay - marcus lee
Marcus Lee

Marcus: I wouldn’t say it is difficult, but there is definitely preparation needed. From registering early, to attending the workshops, to preparing for the audition, I think the difficulty is in adhering to the process.

Young Yee: The judges were critical, and rightly so as well! They pointed out flaws about our performance, and we became a lot more aware of the need to improve. So yes, the performance standards and readiness expected of an applicant is probably the biggest hurdle to cross.

The number of youth taking to busking has increased over the years. Conversely, one of the problems faced is buskers “fighting’ for busking spots. Have you ever had such an encounter? What did you do?

Jonathan: I think there’s rarely any fights in the street, as most of us buskers tend to compromise, although there are always black sheep who will be selfish, and this leads to arguments and fights. I have many encounters with such situations, but I always believe that buskers should try to talk it out and discussed amicably and see how they could share a spot or come to a compromise as to how they can take turns or come at a later time.

Busking by the Bay - aida tay
Aida Tay

Aida: I’ve never “fought” for a spot before. If someone is there before you in terms of time of day, you have to respect that they have the right to be there for however long they want. In cases where my usual busking spot is already taken, I simply have to move to another location I deem fit or wait. I usually just move. I also think that no matter how long (in terms of years, months, weeks) you’ve been frequenting a particular spot, if someone else happens to get there before you on a certain day, you’ve got to respect that the unpredictability of the street and move/wait.

How can the busking scene in Singapore be improved or better managed?

Marcus: I feel that a busking association or a system could be put in place to curate and assign busking locations with buskers. I know that might take away the organic nature and street culture of busking, but not all busking spots are made equal and every busking act is so vastly different and may be better suited for different locations. Having a committee oversee this would help to make the streets more vibrant and more entertaining.

Busking by the Bay - the unemployedd
The Unemployedd

Cheng Wei: It would be nice to see more than 4 auditions a year perhaps. Currently they hold auditions on a quarterly basis, which may make the wait rather long if you missed one. Apart from that, I think we can have a greater variety of acts, including more performances from magicians, dancers, stand-up comedians etc. Such a diverse representation would make the busking culture more unique and have more depth as compared to the rather plain vanilla musicians we mostly see.

Have you considered or have done busking overseas? If you have, how was the experience similar or different to busking in Singapore.

Busking by the Bay - marcus lee_2

Marcus: The experience busking in Stockholm was amazing as the locals were really supportive and appreciative, there’s just this good vibe that you can feel in the air. I remember I was busking in the train station and some police officers came over to tell me to stop because it was not allowed. However, they waited at the side for me to finish my song before coming up to say that I was doing a great job, and then told me to head somewhere else. I was recording a video, so it was quite funny yet touching to see.

How has your experience from busking helped in getting you thus far in your music career?

Busking by the Bay - aida tay_2

Aida: You get to meet people from all walks of life! This means more audiences, more engagement, and more experience when it comes to career benefits. Busking also helps you become braver as you practice putting yourself out there. I just put out my debut EP ‘Kintsugi’, and I would say busking has been instrumental in helping me believe that there is a place, person and ear for every type of song created.

Do you see yourself moving on from busking in the future?

Busking by the Bay - the unemployedd_2

Cheng Wei: On a personal level, I have visualized having my child busking by my side one day and out on the streets together. Of course, we are still years from that, but I tend to be quite idealistic in this manner.

Young Yee: (Cheng Wei and I) will definitely move to other initiatives in the future, but I don’t foresee us totally giving up busking. The freedom in terms of time, location, and musical styles is something that we don’t get in other performance mediums.

As part of the Busking by the Bay’s cause for environmental sustainability, visitors are encouraged to show their support for the buskers through Wheel for Watt, whereby visitors can pedal on stationary bicycles which will then generate electricity to power the buskers’ equipment.

The Unemployedd and Jonathan Goh will be performing on Day 1 (Friday) and Day 2 (Saturday) of Busking by the Bay respectively, while Aida Tay and Marcus Lee will be performing on Day 3 (Sunday).

DBS Marina Regatta

Date: Friday, 31 May to Sunday, 2 June 2019
Time: 3pm-10pm
Venue: The Promontory at Marina Bay, 11 Marina Boulevard, Singapore 018940
Admission is free. For more information, visit https://www.dbs.com/marina-regatta/index.html

Visuals courtesy of Jonathan Goh, Augustine B. Boen, Aida Tay and The Unemployedd.

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Deepa D/O Sundararaju

Animal and music lover, bookworm and movie enthusiast. #blackismyhappycolour

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