This weekend I was reminded of probably the most important lesson I learnt over my years working as a musician in Ireland: be social and collaborate! It’s something that’s often forgotten in Dutch individualistic culture where some people seem to be overfocussed on their own careers and results. And musicians can be the worst here!
I found this very different in Ireland on all social fronts: neighbours helping each other out with gas heaters in cold winters when needed, my landlord telling me he didn’t want me to pay the rent the month after the company I worked for went out of business. I saw some famous musicians still making music for fun in corners of pubs, and helping each other to set up gigs, lending out sound systems etcetera. Not really making a difference between buskers and festival musicians. Probably a remainder of the traditional session culture.
This weekend it was St Patrick’s Day and Luuk Lenders and I were spontaneously joined by a very talented wellknown artist from New Zealand Graeme James on violin and mandolin during. It was such a great contribution to the gig! Now if he were Dutch he might not have offered to. A lot can be learnt from the folk session culture. Put your egos aside: let’s share our talents, don’t go too low when negotiating gig deals, and make the music scene a better place. Because in the end: the music is bigger than us!
When I was a teenager, me and a friend of mine would take a bus from The Hague to Cologne in the middle of a snowy winter to play there on the streets for the Christmas markets. That must have been my first experience with busking. It wasn’t untill a few years later that I found out that one could actually make decent money with it. As a law student I joined a Spanish troubadour group in Maastricht. With this folk music group of girls, dressed in traditional Spanish costumes with long capes, we would travel Europe, and play Spanish folk music on the streets and restaurants of Aachen, Paris, Sevilla and many more places! I have great memories performing at the bottom of the stairs of Montmartre in Paris. With traditional instruments like bandurria, mandolin and pandareta we managed to pay for our own and our instruments’ travels all the way to Andalusia…
Lateron I always carried my guitar on extra plane seats in Europe, on buses to hostels in Ireland, on ferries, in the boot of rental cars. It came in handy many times and always lead to pleasant encounters, and even selling CD’s on the plane haha! My guitar has seen many places and streets of Europe, from Avignon to Venice, and joined me on several hitchhiking adventures! Oh and even some busking festivals!
Playing on the streets in Ireland, I was given money by one of the Westlife singers, invited to play during a book launch event, leading to meetings with TV producers. It always brought in fun opportunities. It’s a great way to travel as a musician when you don’t have gigs lined up. Even though live gigs are much easier money and not as weather dependent, they also need a lot more organisation, arranging sound systems, promotion etc etc. Busking gives a lot of freedom!
I have great respect for people who actually live and work that way, in the cold and rain, completely in the moment. We still do it for fun now and then after gigs, often on Noordeinde for St Patrick’s Day The Hague. Or two years ago as a warmup before our Paradiso concert on the streets of Amsterdam! Such a nice contrast with the vibes and amazing sound system of the big hall!!