STREET performing or busking is more than just an entertainment activity. It has now become a tourist attraction.
For the buskers, appreciation of their music matters more than the money they can make performing on the streets.
They provide an element of entertainment at downtown byways, street lanes, and pavements, and an opportunity as well for the buskers to connect with their community.
Busking can also be a profession or career and is a favourite platform for Malaysians to display their musical talents and cultural arts.
Overall, busking is relaxing and well-received entertainment.
In most countries, the buskers’ rewards usually come in the form of money but there are other modes of payment such as food, drinks, or gifts.
Busking is done by men, women, and even children around the world. In Miri, there are a few budding busking groups and among them is Midnite Busker, generally credited with starting the busking scene in the Resort City.
Midnite Busker is registered with the Malaysian Buskers Club, formed to gather street entertainers, upgrade their performances, and transform the art of busking in the country.
The band was formed around 2012 or 2013, and led then by Donis and his friends from diverse musical backgrounds.
According to the current leader Anizam (Nizam) Fadzillah, the group started busking at Wireless Walk. At that time, the place was just completed with not many booths operating.
The first person to open a business there was Donis and every Friday and Saturday night, Midnite Busker would be there to entertain visitors.
Back then, there was no Container City or Coco Cabana and the term ‘busking’ was relatively new to northern Sarawak.
Kuala Lumpur started it first and it later spread to Kuching, then further north. It’s safe to say Midnite Busker started a wave of busking in Miri.
Over time, more and more stalls opened in the area.
Nizam recalled, “After spending many years at the Wireless Walk and exchanging singers, players, and coping with a variety of bitter and sweet moments, we had to stop because of development to make the place more organised, clean, and one of the new attractions in Miri.
“During that time, many buskers had appeared on the scene and because of the interest shown, we’re thankful the Miri busking scene is getting better.”
Subsequently, the buskers moved on to Damai Setia Restaurant, Miri Airport, Permy Mall, and Emart Riam on a rotational basis.
Old and new
The latest line up is a mix of old and new, from various musical backgrounds and experiences.
According to Nizam, they are now performing weekly at Container City, Bintang Plaza Miri, Ano Hotel Ayam Penyet Restaurant, Chef X Marina, Coco Cabana, and Wak Corner Wireless Walk respectively.
If there are requests to perform at functions, weddings or outside of Miri, they will try to fulfil them.
The public can also follow their Facebook for the latest updates on their weekly venues.
“The music we play is not confined to one genre because the audiences come from different racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds and they have their musical preferences. So we try to learn all genres and to speak multiple languages, ??including Bahasa Melayu, English, Iban, Javanese, Bajau, Tagalog, Thai, and Hindi.
“We need to open our minds to new things and we don’t have to be perfect because busking is for freedom of the mind and entertainment to all,” said the 40-year-old, who is also the vocalist and cajonist.
Apart from Nizam, the other members are Siti Khadijah Sulaiman or Cathy (vocalist), Md Taqiyuddin Kipli or Endek (rhythmist), leader Nazri Dollah (lead guitarist), Zamri Mohamad (bassist), Puteri Nurulfirman Faisal (vocalist and bassist), and Raymos Samsik (vocalist and emcee).
Most of the group members have daily jobs and they learn music on their own, usually practising a couple of times in a month, depending on whether or not the members are free, otherwise, they will practice on their own.
“We all love music and learn to play by ourselves. We’re lucky to have family support all along because initially, it wasn’t easy. Street musicians weren’t that popular back then. Somehow, there was a perception or stigma regarding street performers.
“But slowly, the crowd warmed to busking as they realised it’s an art that is entertaining. We don’t mind if we don’t earn much but what is most satisfying is the crowd enjoying our music. It means a lot and shows we’re performing well,” Nizam said.
He added Midnite Busker aims to go further and perhaps compose their own music one day.
“Like other musicians, we are hoping to write our own music and who knows, probably also cut an album.
“We have performed at various places — even outside Miri — and hope people will recognise and appreciate our talents and other buskers’ as well.”
Nizam thanked his followers for their support — right from the first generation of Midnite Busker to the present.
“Without you, our band might already be buried. We hope everyone will continue to support us and be entertained by the songs we play.”