With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, a colourful array of rookie and long-time buskers can be seen once again around Government Street and Bastion Square.
While extended outdoor patio seating for restaurants occupies certain busking locations, the recent closure of a section of Government Street to motorized vehicles for the main part of the day has attracted larger volumes of foot traffic and spawned joy among buskers as a result.
Mark Weston, a stay-at-home dad and part-time busker for about three years, sees busking as an opportunity to practice music, socialize and meet other musicians. He said busking was warmly received last summer by the public.
“People told me that, with all the doom and gloom, it’s really nice to see just a ray of normalcy with some music on the streets,” he said.
He anticipates greater amounts of foot traffic with the pandemic subsiding and said the closure should have been done years ago, noting drivers in a rush would not take that route anyway.
Singer, harpist and artist Yasmeen Olya busked around Europe and garnered an international following in that time. She appreciates having Government closed for its similarity to the peaceful inner cities of Europe.
“I think people are hungry for music and they want performances and they want community,”she said.
On Victoria’s quieter days during the pandemic, Olya took pleasure in performing remotely in nature-oriented areas around Salt Spring Island and elsewhere.
“I love busking because you can meet so many different kinds of people and the music can touch people that wouldn’t necessarily listen to a harp and vocalist concert,” she said, adding it serves as an introduction to a style of music one may not have previously been familiar with.
To hear Olya’s music and view her artwork, visit yasmeensong.com.
For Jamaican musician JADAHinc, performing on the streets of Victoria with his guitar is a breath of fresh air after having numerous shows cancelled in Ottawa during the pandemic and moving out west to visit his son.
“I am tired of being locked up in a building somewhere, locked away from people,” he said. “The people are very friendly and warm here, no question about it.”
JADAHinc has busked for more than 20 years, finding his love for music at age 12 and performing around Jamaica, Europe and Ontario.
“I’m a firm believer in music being attached to memories and emotions and everything like that, so when certain people hear a certain song, they associate that with a good time in their life,” said Kingston-born busker and tree planter Harvey Moon.
Having started busking last January, Moon is excited to see the Government corridor busy again. He enjoyed being able to play next to restaurants in previous months without needing to compete with hired performers and being asked to leave.
“Whenever I come out, I get a lot of really good reactions from people telling me how much they appreciate me being out here and just playing live music.”
Duo Marian Schols and Jeronimo Aviles noticed an abundance of competition along the stretch on their first day of busking. Aviles, originally from Cancun, met Schols at music school and is happy to now be part of the local music scene both on and off the street.
“When there are no gigs, I’m probably going to be out here busking,” he said.
Peter Goodmen has been a street artist for over five years and previously battled cancer. Radiation from chemotherapy severely weakened his lungs, but he found peace and respite through selling his artwork.
”People are sort of walking around in fear,” he said, describing the last year as rough for him as a busker. “They’re not very giving, they don’t talk and I think there’re gradual little changes now, but it’s going to take a while.”
In any case, Goodmen is happy with the Government Street closure, especially the addition of potted plants.
“We all need to learn and grow within ourselves. We need to learn how to re-love and re-nurture ourselves and direct that same kind of love in motion at other people.”
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