Home Community Tough Tofu Busker


There is a large segment of society that looks down upon musicians, actors, and poets especially if they have not made it to the national stage and are rich. To carve out an existence as an entertainer and an artist can be a daunting and formidable task for sure. The culture of street performers dates back many centuries and has been found in every corner of the world. Places such as China, India, Africa, and Europe have long been known for their roadside performers. Besides the musicians there have been many a court jester, a juggler, and magicians to boot. Of course, there are also the perks of being your own boss. One can wake up anytime, set his own hours, and take time off whenever he feels like it. I personally find it to be more respectable than simply asking for loose change from strangers.
In the USA, it seems that this type of livelihood goes against Asian culture. It is not kosher to be a starving artist. We are totally consumed with being middle class or rich and need the security of a stable income. Having a middle class life style in America is quite a high standard of living compared to large swaths of Asia, Africa, and South America indeed. I like it and am very thankful for the life I have.
The term busker or busking is the act of performing in public places for gratuities. Most of the time, the rewards are in the form of money but other gratuities may be given such as food, drink, or gifts. This gratuity concept has spilled over into the restaurants and night clubs as many places like to feed the band as well as pay the players. I like this concept a lot, especially the places with really good food. Although I don’t play my music on the streets, I have a certain respect for the people who choose to do it. I have played a lot of gigs wherein people are simply passing by and never really even notice me. Some of my steady work doing background music at the casinos and shopping malls is akin to the alternative life style of the venerable busker. My tennis and golf buddies have always said that I have an alternative life style which is all so true.

[Editor’s Note]
Deems Tsutakawa is a local Sansei musician. He can be reached at deemst@deemsmusic.com.