Happily Humbled in Lugano, Day 1.5

Seeing as my last post was so very long, I decided to split this day into two posts. After that inspiring experience, I couldn’t very well not busk on my own afterwards. So after a short draw of the beautiful lake, I walked up the hill to a lovely newspaper and street art covered tunnel to play for an hour.

I didn’t feel nervous, really, and already felt so happy and fulfilled by my last busk that I really didn’t care what reception I received, monetary or otherwise. My slow start didn’t bother me, therefore, a I played about fifteen minutes or so (Wu Xia music to start) without a tip. As seems typical for my pitches, however, the arrival of one tip changed the vibe entirely – very curious how the starting seed change can drastically affect the likelihood of tipping. As mentioned earlier, this trip I have started almost every time with just one or two euros, rather than the smarter 5-10 that I did years before. I’m not really sure why, either.

At any rate, a man dressed in cream clothing with sunglasses, a dog, and a cellphone approached and stopped by the bench to my left. I stopped a he neared to allow him to speak, but when he sat down, I asked him “Posso?” and he responded “Vai, vai, prego” rather enthusiastically, implying he stopped so as to listen to me. I played the piece I had just practiced so such great acclaim earlier in the day: Horse Racing. Instantly, a tip from a man in a suit. When I finished, the dog owner, scruffy and friendly both, come to tip and compliment me. Obviously Chinese music is the way here. I continue with more erhu tunes and the tips flow. Another young man in a suit. A middle aged woman doubling back from platform stairs (my tunnel passes below the train station). A young woman. Anoher woman with a friend. An unfriendly stare from a crotchety old spinster.

People ready their tips on the approaching stairs from either side, with less afterthought tips than in Italy and more intentional, planned ones. Perhaps I’m reading into it, but it does seem to reflect the underlying cultures. The acoustics sound gorgeous and unforgiving, amplifying my mistakes so I can hear them lingering for some time after I err. When I depart from my Chinese repertoire the tips dry up, and the flow of passersby slows as well until I very generous and brightly smiling North African man hands me a five euro note on his way to the platform stairs. He dallied in the stairwell within sight to express his appreciation in signs miming violin playing alternating with his hand on his heart.

A thought to conclude. This busking trip feels very different. More of a honing, training process. Experimental and curious, rather than a means to an end. Last time I selected from a vast repertoire of 130 songs, constantly expanding it. This foray I’ve taken a small repertoire to refine.

Earnings: 9,20CHF + 6,00€, 1 hours

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