Buskitechture in Helsinki, Day 4

Today (6.14.10) was a strange kind of day. Very rich in experience, but not so rich otherwise. I set up my first pitch at Senaatintori once again. Cold and gray again and I made practically nothing in my first hour. The funny thing being that the people in the square and the passersby were not unappreciative. They just seemed to cold to take their hands from their pockets. Several of them smiled once they heard me, and a few settled down on seats nearby. Few gave. The sun came out briefly right when I was about to give up about half way through, and a man originally from Turkey had a nice chat with me. He wondered if I might teach him trumpet – which I obviously am unable to – and then told me to keep it up. While he didnt tip me, I appreciated his kindliness.

The most egregious example of how the pitch went is really rather a tragicomedic story. I’ve been trying to amass songs in multiple languages so as to surprise people as they pass with a song in their native tongue. I learned I Believe from My Sassy Girl (though I promptly forgot it) and Ojala by Silvio Rodriguez. My surest foreign language standy, however, is Ue Wo Muite Arukou (known in the states as the sukiyaki song for whatever reason) by Kyu Sakamoto. It’s this wonderful tune from the 1960s with a cheerful melody and lyrics about being all alone at night, looking up while walking so the tears don’t fall. Brilliant stuff.

Anyways, I saw a large group of Japanese tourists enter the church and I made a mental note to play it for them when they returned to the bus down the long set of steps. So as they began to walk back down a quarter of an hour later, I began to sing. They were heading to my left around the statue in the square, but as soon as they heard me they all flowed towards me, like a redirected waterway. Everyone, whose expression was previously dour, began to smile. They gathered around me – 25-30 of them, all middle aged – and many sang along with the chorus. When I finished, they laughed and talked among each other animatedly (keeping their eyes away from me now that I had finished) as if I had vanished. One man asked me if I was Japanese (which I was very complimented by – I’d pronounced it right!) but didnt tip me when I said I wasnt. Then again I doubt he would have tipped me either way. After milling about in front of me for a while, they all moved off, ignoring me. Only one woman paused to toss me a 20 cent coin. Japanese tourists fail.

My second pitch was by Stockmann again, which seems to be a good default location. It went similarly here, with many people pausing but few tipping. A group of kids thought me rather amusing, singing along laughingly to Hallelujah. Another set of middle schoolers hung out on the street to my left, and ran over to me to say “Peace, dude” every now and then and tossing in a 5 cent coin. The nicest was one old Finnish woman who said “God Bless You,” very emotional and beaming through eyes welling up with tears as I sang Tears in Heaven. At the very end of my pitch, a nice bohemian looking 20something decided to part ways with his friend so as to listen to me for a few songs I Started a Joke and Dreams. None of them gave me anything, but the company and the camaraderie was enough for today.

Earnings: €11.55, 1.75 hours
Song of the Day: Ue Wo Muite Arukou – Kyu Sakamoto

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