Thursday, January 24, 2008

MANILA'S STREET MUSICIANS


Besides the occasional blind musicians with their electric guitars and amplifiers, I hardly see other local musicians performing on the streets and parks of Manila. Whereas in Manhattan, especially on weekends, there would always be an individual or band -- from pop to jazz -- who provide live music for the public's entertainment for nothing more than spare change.

There are, of course, certain New York City ordinances on this matter such as restrictions on performing in certain areas or neighborhoods, as well as the use of microphones and amplifiers; hence acoustic makes a tolerable compromise.


Anyway, the absence of a vibrant live music scene on the streets of Manila may have to do with the ubiquitous videoke machines; that local folks would rather hear themselves sing than support an unknown musician. But then again, the blind musicians of Avenida Rizal can easily dispel such notion, for they steadily attract quite a large crowd, including a stream of loose change at the end of their every set.

So now I'm wondering if perhaps, our local music artists just find street performances as simply uncool. But speaking of which, the world famous Cirque Du Soleil has always included in its cast a fair amount of street performance artists.



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posted by Señor Enrique at 2:25 PM


22 Comments:

Blogger Tina said...

most of them learn to play by ear i
reckon they're quite talented musos.
here in oz you need to have a license
to be able to busk.

talk about karaoke,i bought a magic sing from pinas and it has become my pride and joy a real novelty until I
accidentally dropped it so now it's
dead! does anyone know how to fix it?
senor tata (aussie lingo means thanks)for the words and pictures!

January 24, 2008 3:50 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

At Raon Street in Quiapo here in Manila, Tina, is where many videoke machines are assembled.

As for those Magic Sing microphones with chips that contain hundreds of songs, they can be purchsed mostly at SM appliance stores. However, I don't know where to take one to be repaired. Perhaps, a fellow blogger may have an idea.

Tata for the Aussie jargon. Does musos = musician, and busk = play or perform?

January 24, 2008 5:26 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

I had the chance to stay in Paris for two weeks before going up north for a 2-month long workshop. Here, I learned that (according to a French classmate)that most music students perform on the streets and subways for earning their allowances and getting over their stage fright. Of course, there was one very memorable performance of an elderly Frenchman (quite of the lower income class) played "Autumn Leaves" on his accordion in one of the subways. I was sooo mesmerized and walking up the steps out towards the setting sun made it all dramatic. Concerts are so expensive there and just this one free performance was enough!

Last Christmas, while waiting for the banca to set sail for Batangas, there came a couple (a blind man and his wife) "caroling" with the man playing his banduria(!) oh so magnificently. The people around were just as pleased but not as I would expect to give honor to this very talented man. I crossed the road and gave the wife all I had in my wallet...my husband kasi has our budget money :-). I even shook the hand of the blind man and gave my quiet words of praise.The wife seemed to be just as pleased with my compliments for they waved goodbye to me as well when the banca sailed off.

My experiences with street musicians abroad helped me overcome my shyness and apathy to the "little man's" musical genius.

January 24, 2008 5:44 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Interestingly, Bernadette, the same in New York City. It's just as common to run into a quartet playing classical music as well as a duet jamming on some standard jazz tunes. Rock, blues, and folk musicians abound also, especially in the downtown areas of Greenwich Village.

There are also those Hispanic percussion ensemble groups that congregate at some parts of Central park and provide exciting, saucy soundtrack for a late Sunday afternoon stroll.

Unarguably, we have many talented local musicians. I am just puzzled as to why they shy away from performing on the streets. It would have been wonderful, especially for our younger people, to be exposed to as wide a variety of music as possible. Pop tunes are fine, but there's also so much out there that the regular Manila folks should learn to appreciate.

Thanks for sharing with us your experiences with street musicians during your travels!

January 24, 2008 6:39 PM  

Blogger luna miranda said...

I’ve also been wondering why we have no street musicians here except for the blind one-man band at the sidewalk. Maybe Pinoys are just shy performing on a street corner. Our music students here won’t even dare to perform at the MRT station, or even at Ayala Avenue. My first encounter with street musicians was in the NYC subway…a young cellist and a violinist. I was so amazed and wished we have the same here in Manila. The jazz street musicians in San Francisco add flavor and romance to the city---one of the things I look forward to when I visit. Let’s hope the ‘younger’ crop of local musicians would be hip enough to play outside their usual haunts.

January 24, 2008 7:20 PM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

Street musicians could be common in all cities I guess, and they add much to the delight of passersby. I also give (drop) some coins to show my appreciation...its a wonder, good music can be found in the streets.

At one time there was an old violinist I saw by the stairs near the train station and he played instantly when I glanced at him, I gave him some coins and since he doesn't seem to speak English or German, I motioned my camera asking for a photo...he readily smiled hehe.

And SenorE, out topic..I linked your entry about the San Sebastian church to my Eiffelt Tower entry...nakalimutan ko magpaalam...=D Thanks!

January 24, 2008 8:37 PM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

Oh Tina, if the magic sing won't work anymore try Java karaoke...I downloaded it and added songs of my choice...=D Tipid.

January 24, 2008 8:40 PM  

Blogger pusa said...

these street blind singers are really good! you should also hear the resident sidewalk singer at pedro gil going to robinsons place =)

January 24, 2008 9:52 PM  

Blogger Urbano dela Cruz said...

"I am just puzzled as to why they shy away from performing on the streets."

I think its because perfoming on the streets is seen as vagrancy. And most of our musicians (even struggling ones) can find gigs in small bars and restaurants.

Having musicians on the street is also deliberate on the part of cities. e.g. -you have to have a permit to play in the stations of the Boston T and NYC's metro. --Some say Tracy Chapman was discovered while playing in the T.

One of my laments is how we take our artists forgranted. While the rest of the world's cities are putting in resources to cultivate art and creativity -because it has a direct correlation to innovation and competitiveness.

UDC

January 24, 2008 11:44 PM  

Blogger carlotta1924 said...

i remember seeing a lot of musicians in nyc's subways and most of them are really good.

there's an old man who is very good in playing the piano (though not on the streets). there's a grand piano at megamall's bldg b and he plays there from time to time. it's really nice to see many people from walks of life convene around the piano and enjoy the music--classical, oldies, even pop.

wouldn't it be nice if other talented musicians here (even unknown) would have the guts to perform on the street or even in the mrt?

=)

January 25, 2008 5:28 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Classical music is often played by musicians on the streets and subway stations of Manhattan's Upper West Side, Luna. I can only guess that it may be on account of the Lincoln Center complex nearby where Julliard is located. Many members of the symphony orchetras also live in that area.

But guess what? From what I heard, during Art Month in February, there will be live music performances at LRT and MRT stations -- Ani ng Sining Fiesta!

January 25, 2008 6:03 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Back in New York, G. Mirage, there was once a time whenever the weather was warm that this tall guy would play his alto sax by the bus stop. I'd often make it a point to hang around for a couple of tunes before boarding my bus. It came to the point that he'd gotten to know me by face and would take some request. For a mere dollar, he'd play me a jazzy version of a Gershwin tune or two, much to my heart's delight.

I'll have to check out your Eiffel Tower enrty. Perhaps, someday I'll get to photograph it, too :)

January 25, 2008 6:08 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That would be along the way from the LRT going to Robinson's, right, Pusa? I'll have to make it a point to keep an eye out for them next time I happen to find myself in the area. Thanks!

January 25, 2008 6:10 AM  

Anonymous tina said...

hi senor, yeah muso= musician, busk=
perform. ta-ta actually means goodbye ans ta is thank you. got mixed up lol!

heard that pinoys are one of the most
happiest people on earth reckon it's
to do with their love of music.

g.mirage thanks for the input!

January 25, 2008 6:11 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Perhaps, you're right, Urbano. But how wonderful it would be if our young children, not allowed in such bars, can be exposed to fine live music besides those tunes belted out through videoke machines during drinking bouts at birthday bashes .... hehehe.

Anyway, let's wait and see how this NCCA's bringing the arts to the people project turns out during this February's art month. I'd like to see how the local Pinoys will react to live (classical?) music in the LRT and MRT train stations.

January 25, 2008 6:20 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I think Rockwell also has a grand piano in which someone plays on it at certain times. It sorts of reminds me when some banks in NYC provided live piano music for their senior citizen customers during a certain time of the month when they came in with their pension checks. But these days, everything is done electronically through their ATMs.

You have got to be good to play in the streets of New York; otherwise, you'd get jeered by some of these demanding New Yorkers -- even accusing you of noise pollution ... hehehe.

January 25, 2008 6:38 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Good morning, Carla!

I think Rockwell also has a grand piano in which someone plays on it at certain times. It sorts of reminds me when some banks in NYC provided live piano music for their senior citizen customers during a certain time of the month when they came in with their pension checks. But these days, everything is done electronically through their ATMs.

You have got to be good to play in the streets of New York; otherwise, you'd get jeered by some of these demanding New Yorkers -- even accusing you of noise pollution ... hehehe.

January 25, 2008 6:39 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's basically my point, Tina. We do have an abundance of local talent, but where are they? Bring your art to the people, I say :)

Thanks for the Aussie lingo lessons. Now I feel confident in visiting Australia one of these days :)

January 25, 2008 6:43 AM  

Anonymous bw said...

Here in Toronto you got to have a permit to be a street musician which means you have to show your skill that you deserve an entertainment spot. Fair enough I think coz it's aggravating to see someone simply wail and yell and ask for donation hehe :)

January 25, 2008 8:26 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Speaking of wailing and yelling, BW, I was told doing such can get you higher scores from a videoke machine ... hehehe.

But yes, I agree with you, you must at least prove you're skilled enough to soothe instead of annoy the public with your musicianship.

However, those subway musicians in NYC probably do not ask for any permit. And if really good playing those classics with their cello, violin, flute, or oboe, the cops often just look the other way :)

January 26, 2008 6:55 AM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

Musicians in the street reflect a lively cultural and arts scene. They're a common presence in major cities around the world. Our musicians ought to get more imaginative and daring. They ought to get out of the confines of bars and clubs and give their music a wider and more public exposure. They'll probably end up selling more records that way.

January 26, 2008 9:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"Our musicians ought to get more imaginative and daring. They ought to get out of the confines of bars and clubs and give their music a wider and more public exposure."

Amen to that Panaderos!

Not only minors but old geezers like me don't hang out at bars to get to hear their music. So why not a bit of impromptu street performance so as to introduce us to their sounds, right?

And don't think of us as too old and square, either. After all, the rock music they play now is mostly derived from the rock music heralded by the generations of old ... hehehe!

January 26, 2008 11:41 AM  

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