ONE PROFESSIONAL BUSKER’S PETITION FOR PASSION, PLEASURE AND PROFIT IN HALIFAX
Welcome to the weird, wacky and wayward world of Halifax harbor busking, we have it all! Well, there’s one thing we haven’t…shame.
Musicians from all over the country come to the Halifax harbour front to play the summer away in an array of spectacular and spacey acts. The goal? Money mostly, there’s no getting around that. We don’t open our cases to get some fresh harbour air in there (though, depending on where you are and what you play, that may be your lot.)
I was fresh off the train from Northern Ontario in May but I’ve quickly learned the ins and outs and I’m not afraid to say that money talks. We entertain and we enjoy it, but we enjoy dinner and drinks to go with it too.
Of course, not all of the buskers down by the water need the money to make their way. Some collect disability and like to thicken their pocket lining; some are planted there by their parents who either have the greed of Scrooge or are trying to pay off their second hybrid SUV; while others simply want to jam or practice, entertain people in whatever way suits, or even just get right down crazy because it’s all about the expression and not the result. I, however, fit in rather snug with the first group: I busk to make my way. It can be a full time job if you want it to or let it be.
And before anyone says anything about busking not being a real job I would like you to decide which is more work: pen-pushing and playing flash games on a computer all day because your job is actually relatively pointless but for the fact that there needs to be a market of jobs for people to show that degrees are still important? Or playing guitar for seven hours straight, until your fingers bleed and singing until you end up with an unintentional Bryan Adams rasp? I know which one might sound more appealing to many people, but I think I’ve made my point. Busking is a job , and what’s more is that it has been a job from as early as 451 B.C.E. In case the magnitude of that is lost on anyone: that is 2,463 years of street performance: at least four centuries before the alleged Jesus Christ turned water in to wine (a delicious trick I’m sure many musicians would love to have).
As locals, you’ll find us strewn along the boardwalk all day, all week (I’ll be on the stage across from Theodore Too if you want to say hello). On weekends, you’ll find many of us at the Farmer’s Market just past the docks. We come in many shapes and sizes and you’ll see us, and hopefully appreciate us in spite of an ever growing fear of the long arm of the law snatching us off the streets. I’ve noticed a great discrepancy between locals and tourists, and it is this: locals may very well enjoy the music, but are always wondering if we heard that the cops are going to kick us out during Tall ships or on Canada Day or similar nonsense, whereas tourists simply expect us to be there and enjoy what they believe to be our quaint, jovial quality as Canadians.
451 B.C.E., by the way, is not only the first record I could find of busking, but also the first implementation of a law against ‘Libelli Famosi,’ which basically means singing parodies about dignitaries or government officials. The birth of busking was bad-mouthing the Harpers of the ancient world. So, for example, that would mean I wouldn’t be able to sing about fighter jets today…or the long-gun registry or…well you get the idea.
I think people still have that underlying fear of the institution coming down on expression, but I think Haligonians can rest easier knowing that, according to the Halifax by-laws, there is no direct law against any sort of busking on Crown land. It’s our land too, you’ll be happy to know.
Speaking of locals though, I may have misread the situation as an Ontarian, but it seems that many locals are afraid of buskers (presumably not the GUFF reading crowd). I simply cannot understand. In Ontario no one cares if you’re a busker. They’ll hoard around you whether or not they’re giving you money because you’re in their way and they need to get where they need to be because life in the fast lane of Ontario is just too intense. In Halifax, it seems like there must have been some great busker-borne disease at one time or another. I busk, when weather permits out here (which is not necessarily often) and I have to say, there are a great number of people who do dish out some coin to me for which I am eternally grateful as I am otherwise unemployed and useless, but it seems there are at least three times as many people out there who give me the widest birth I’ve ever seen…I mean, Courtney Love could never dream of having a birth this wide. What did I do? Do I exude ‘parfum d’Ontario’. I swear we’re not all so bad.
Buskers don’t bite…most buskers don’t bite: we’re happy, fun-loving, polite Canadians like the rest. So here is my plea: Don’t have us rely solely on the tourists (wonderful as they are for our economy). We artists, that’s what we are, need your support as Canadians. We, locals or not, are Canadian artists, and we have a voice, but it would be wonderfully harmonious with the voice of the people along side, continuing the ever-turning Minstrel Cycle.
So you can stop your badgering, Rihanna: We won’t stop the music!
- Anthony Leclair
Anthony Leclair is an Ontario-born artist who has come to Canada’s ocean playground to hone his skills and make a way for Canadian artists to be recognized by Canadians. A Theatre Arts graduate and a self-trained writer and musician, Anthony dabbles in many forms of art and does his utmost to entertain and educate himself and those around him. A new addition to GUFF Magazine, Anthony is determined to continue sharing his passions with readers.