His guitar and raspy voice probably weren’t heard as much. It has a lot to do with where he was playing, I guess. Above him were the trains, below him were the buses, and around him were people who were listening to music blaring from their earphones and MP3 players. The humid weather probably didn’t help as much. Yet he played the songs nobody knew, eagerly awaiting the sounds of loose change falling through the slot of the collection box.
He plays his music for the music he wants to hear.
I’ve often been told that street musicians are nothing more than gimmicks; that they’re either part of a vagrancy syndicate, or that they’re not really poor at all. “May pambili nga ng gitara, mamamalimos pa,” my mother used to say, as I watched street musicians back home intently. There’s that woman at Session Road who uses the Casio synthesizer, and then there’s that one-man band near the stairs of the Baguio Cathedral who plays a guitar and a drum and a harmonica all at the same time.
It was too hot and too stressful a day to go home through the train, so I decided to take the bus instead. The complicated footbridge spanning across EDSA from Ortigas was nothing more than a pedestrian path a few weeks ago, but the beggars and vagrants have lined the streets. It’s not too often that I cross this particular footbridge, but then again, it’s not the first time I heard of street musicians at Ortigas either. I think the busker on the bridge moved territories, from the small outpost near the Asian Development Bank to the brand-new footbridge.
It’s not like he was going to play anything by The Scorpions or AC/DC or anything. The songs he played, though, were songs I didn’t know.
On those very rare idle days, I sometimes sit with a guitar and, with my wrecked hands, try to play some lines from the songs that I do know, and wonder if anyone’s listening. I sometimes wonder if the plucks of an intro or the strums of a bridge would be heard by anyone other than myself, except that I’m not doing it for money. Sometimes I think that someone else listens to the music I play, no matter how quietly I pluck and strum on that guitar. Or if computer keyboards were musical instruments, I wish someone could hear.
I think it was Jacques Derrida who ranted a lot about “delay;” that there’s always that moment that we wait for things to pass through time and space, that nothing is ever faithful to translations, that things will always take time to be read, to be heard, to be understood. That it’s never instantaneous; that gratification in art, whether it’s music or painting or sculpture or writing always takes a moment of waiting… and a moment of being constant, too. To just keep doing what you’re doing.
I doubt if, amidst the noise of the city and the hiss of his guitar, he heard coins drop into the box.