Long before performances were held in proscenium theatres, music and art would reached the masses through artists who would bring their art out onto the street. Talent would pour out in the form of music, puppetry, snake charming, painting, comedy, dance, magic shows and theatre. These public performances came to be known as busking.
In celebration of this art form, a World Busk Week will be conducted across the world from June 9-15. Held with the intention of encouraging public space performances and bringing to notice local talent, this time a unique event is scheduled for its sixth edition. Ten venues across the world including UK, US, South America, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Italy, Spain and India will aim at creating a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest simultaneous busk. On June 11 at 10.30 pm IST, 25 street musicians from Mumbai will join buskers across the world playing in unison for five minutes at the Amphitheratre in Bandra. The participating teams from India are Mumbai’s National Streets for Performing Arts (NSPA) and Child’s Play Foundation from Goa.
“The idea is to encourage independent artistes and spread awareness of the city’s budding art culture and heritage,” says Roy Dopaishi, from the NSPA who is managing the World Busk Event. “The five-minute performance for the world record will see the buskers perform to the tunes of a popular song,” says Dopaishi. Prior to this attempt, 6.30 pm onwards a three-hour busk will be held at the same venue which will include performances in folk fusion, Marathi rock, Konkani folk music, nat kartab (rope walking), street art and photography by the NSPA buskers.
Just two years old, the Mumbai-based organisation founded by Ajit Dayal wishes to reclaim public spaces and bring about greater cultural interaction between the city its people. The NSPA buskers are the perfect choice for attempting the world record. Five days a week, across different venues in the city which include train stations, school grounds and popular public spaces in the city, a large crowd usually gathers around one or a group of musicians. These musicians entertain a footfall of nearly 50 listeners every two minutes and reaches out to around 1,500 passersby every hour.
One of the first artistes to be recruited by the NSPA was folk singer-songwriter Pratuyl Joshi. The musician remembers his first busk at Churchgate station. “I was told there would just be a banner behind me and nothing else. I was really unnerved as I walked onto the station with my guitar. I don’t think anyone even noticed my first song. But when I started playing my second song, people started gathering out of curiosity.”
Today, Joshi draws at least a hundred people who sometimes start singing and dancing along with him.