Saturday, April 23, 2016

Haven for buskers

By Tony Mariadass

The image of buskers in Malaysia is surely changing for the better, thanks to the efforts of Malaysian Buskers Club (MYBC) who have now embarking on a mission to have a ‘Buskers Village’ in the new future.
It was no easy path for MYBC to make themselves relevant and it was president Wady Hamdan, his deputy and veteran busker Asrul Hanif and his committee’s tireless effort which has finally seen them being recognised as a body for buskers.
Started three years ago, it was a rough road to recognition and facing rejection from all quarters, be it government agencies, malls or even people in general, was a norm.
But the 41 year-old statistician by profession and a graduate from Australia, kept knocking on doors and eventually made inroads when he had an opportunity to meet the prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, after writing a letter to him about his plight and mission to make buskers in Malaysian relevant.
“That meeting two years ago, somewhat changed the path for MYBC, but it was still not smooth sailing until Avenue K management under Sue Wang gave us the first platform to perform at a mall,” said Wady a father of twelve children.
Wang said that Avenue K’s tagline of ‘Make friends and create trends’, they wanted to engage with the public and have a place where they can chill out and enjoy raw entertainment but talented.
“We created a space for the buskers at the KLCC MRT station which was part of Avenue K and was one of the busiest stations in the city. We wanted to make the station lively and wanted public to have experience and enjoy their train trips,” said Wang.
“It also served as a place for family gathering and tourists’ attraction.
“We are happy that we pioneered the idea and that MYBC have found many other places who are supporting them now.”
 Wady said that the opportunity afforded to them by Avenue K opened many other doors opened – from malls, airport, television stations, corporate organisations and for functions.
“Today we have a database of 11,000 buskers from throughout the country and almost every state has a club who coordinate with us.
“Our buskers are not just musicians. Buskers are street performers who entertain the crowd as musicians, stand-up comics, clowns, magicians and other talent.”
 However, Wady said that for performers at Malls and high-end places, they have a group of buskers who are of a certain standard.
“As much as we encourage all buskers to join MYBC, but there different avenues for them to perform.
“While the betters ones – about 50 –who are called ‘ resident buskers’, perform at malls and places which requires a certain standard, we have jamborees, street and art festivals and other functions where the rest get to show case all sorts of talent.”
Wardy said MYBC is also serious about their image and do not want buskers to be viewed as drug addicts, unemployed youth who are out to make trouble or shabbily dressed, beggars or the homeless.
“We have worked hard to change our image and even had our members undergo urine test to certify that they are not involved in drugs.”
Wady said they have been working closely with
Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry, the Tourism and Culture Ministry, Kraftangan Malay, State government of Kedah, Pahang and Federal Territory Ministry and KL City Hall to name a few.
Wady said they do not take any money from the collections the buskers make and said that usually for a day’s performance which can be anything between two to four hours, they can take home between RM400 to RM500.
Rosters are drawn up MYBC for the various venues and everyone gets an opportunity.
“But there is still plenty we can do for the buskers and achieve. Among them include to have a ‘buskers village’ and also to get a national licence for buskers where they can perform anywhere in the country.
“Presently licences given by a particular state is not recognised by others. Then we also get harassment from the police and other enforcement agencies.
“We need to streamline our presence nationwide.”
As for the dream ‘buskers village’ Wady said that being a Kedahan, he is hoping to set it up in the northern state.
“This village will be emblem of the buskers industry, a tourist attraction, an area where buskers have their homes and where they can also have other working opportunities all in the compound of the village.
“It is a long term plan and support from all quarters is going to be vital. 
"But having gone through the rough path to have come where we have, we are all prepared to continue to struggle to make our dream become a reality.”
The negative perception of buskers is certainly changing as they become recognised as entertainers rather than undesirable elements and a nuisance.

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