I had always been interested in finding out about the lifestyles of interesting occupations in Singapore, because I know there are more to Singaporeans than our facades. It always seems like everyone has this standard path in life that you have to go through, and life is always so boring as a result.
Therefore, I am officially starting this new project called the lifestyle series, finding out more about people with interesting hobbies and lifestyles. Of course, this series is purely opinionated and does not represent the entire population of similar lifestyles. And I’m going to start off with a friend of mine, Rui Han, who performs in public for passion for music, as you find out a bit later. He is relatively new in this scene but already has so much interesting stories to share.
(JEE: Me; RH: Rui Han)
Skipping all the small chat, on a fine day,
JEE: You know I’ve been afraid to label you as ‘busker’, are you comfortable with that term? Or should I call you a street performer?
RH: I know that some prefer the term ‘street performer’ because there seem to be negative connotation attached to busking in Singapore relative to the European countries. Some consider it to be a glorified form of begging – but that’s on the extreme end of the spectrum.
JEE: Hmmm… that sounds quite harsh eh.
RH: I don’t think that’s the general consensus, but I am aware of such sentiments. It doesn’t bother me though. But if I were to differentiate – I think a street performer embodies the element crowd engagement and entertainment more strongly than buskers, whereas my objective is to harness music as a form of expression and a way to connect with people. So if I were to pick – I’d choose busker!
JEE: I must say I am guilty for ignoring most street performers I see, so how did you get started?!
RH: The short answer would be passion for music.
JEE: WAHHHHH (sorry I just had to HAHAHA)
RH: HAHA eh, I think music means different things to different people. And to most people it is largely a form of expression and escapism. I read somewhere that people start dying a piece at a time when they stop expressing themselves.
JEE: I totally feel that sometimes, like some form of like itch in your body. I saw that you perform quite often for your hall as well ya. (Of course I know this, I haven’t been stalking.)
RH: Actually only a handful of times, but yes I’ve had experiences with doing a few stage performances either for hall or other events but I realised that they only gave me exposure rather than fulfilment as I didn’t feel like I could make a difference to a person’s day.
JEE: So I suppose that sort of links that to busking right.
RH: Yessu. It’s for this reason that I took the guitar to the streets – to send a message, to reach out to others who might appreciate a particular song as much as I do. The bigger picture is showing people that we have similarities in our attachment to a song we feel for, in spite of our differences. It’s a little melodramatic I know, forgive me.
JEE: Sia lah that is like totally model answer right there. But won’t you be afraid that people just walk past you without giving you much attention (like me)?
RH: My inner introvert is actually very contented with not having attention HAHA. It makes this easier actually. Unlike stage performances where all attention is on me, I can be less bothered about delivering a flawless performance. Instead, I’ll just be in my little corner doing my thing, providing background music – either you notice me because you enjoy the music, or don’t and carry on with your day, as I will with mine. Nobody loses in this arrangement!
JEE: Anyway, I am interested to know a typical day when you prepare to go out there and sing in public.
RH: The first order of business is printing the lyrics of new songs that I want to add to my repertoire (if any), and practice them a couple of times. Then I’ll lug the stuff from home to my usual busking spot.
JEE: Apart from like the equipment, any other special stuff?
RH: A blackboard for writing a message of the day, some sweets for the throat, a bottle of honey water (to increase my HP) and a Pikachu plushie – my lucky charm.
JEE: That’s cute! Do you get special comments about that when you perform?
RH: Occasionally HAHA. If you don’t enjoy the music, you may at least be amused by the plushie – a small difference, but a difference nonetheless. Fewer notice the Pikachu sticker on the guitar heheh.
JEE: So okay, back to the topic, what happens after you are settled down and ready to roll?
RH: I start with a few easy songs as warm up, then I’ll play through my thick stack of songs and repeat them when the crowd has changed, especially the more popular songs. Occasionally I receive a song request which I will try my best to fulfil (Unfortunately I’m not talented enough to improvise and figure a song out by ear), and sometimes I get strangers who come up to me to sing a song or two (you don’t have to be a singer to sing!). Rinse wash repeat, until I panggang!
JEE: Semo is rinse wash repeat, when you still out there in public? Haha!
RH: Like, repeat the whole process. Confirm need to repeat songs; I ain’t no Spotify~
It was a pretty long conversation and so I’ve decided to leave some more interesting stories of his busking journey to a later post. Basically I did go over to say hi and somehow I was itching to sing a few songs which I did. It was super nerve-racking. You see people looking at you while they are walking past you, and to not let that affect you, you just keep your vision fixed onto the lyrics so that you avoid eye contact with the crowd. So it’s quite amazing how Rui Han does it sometimes.
Meanwhile, stayed tuned as I find out more about his process of getting his busking license, and also some of his experiences thus far. Well I was certainly expecting some really wtf moments for sure. HAHA. Thank you to Rui Han for agreeing to let me write about you as well! 😀
(You may click here for part 2: LifeStyle Series 1.2)
CR: @jeeheng + @hanhankuah