Tuesday, 11 September 2007

A Cameroon Busker in London...

According to the dictionary, a busker is a person who entertains for money in public places. I once heard an elderly Englishman declaring boldly prior to an event that wasn’t well organised. “Let us just busk it…” meaning we shall improvise or take it by ear (as it comes, so to speak).

If you live in London, busking might visually mean playing music in underground train stations (tubes) and nowadays buskers are treated decently with well positioned spots. Many years ago I was on tour in the UK and for few days had to busk because of a few cancelled gigs. One thing you should know.
Busking can be lucrative and I would make a minimum of fifty pounds in a couple of hours. I was playing my Berimbau in one of the tube stations when two police men knocked on my heaven’s door.
“You Nigerian! Get your bow and arrow away from here. Can’t you see the sign?”
Those were the Thatcher days. It was illegal to do street music. Busking was in demand and it was liked, nevertheless. That’s why commuters always throw money at you.
Music has always been a healing force; and for someone coming from work it is always good to be soothed and cheered by a catchy tune. Today buskers are screened before making this arranged noise.
Last week I was ambling out of the Liverpool tube station and picked up a peculiar African guitar sound. It is rare to hear African music unless you are in markets or certain neighbourhoods where Africans are partying. It was distinct and there I was snapping photos of none other than Mr. High Blood Consultant from Cameroon. He was perched on a stool strumming and selling his CD with a surprising title: “Tribute to Princess Diana.”

I have always been a sucker for music from Cameroon. The bug caught me in the days of Manu Dibangu’s international “Soul Makossa” bash back in the 1970’s followed by San Fan Thomas album hit of the 1980’s…which was so good you still hear it on African dancing floors. Cameroonians have this distinct sound and their hits are everlasting. Recently a song that has become the darling of African jiggle is “Wago.” Someone told me the composer is Cameroonian. Wrong or right, I wouldn’t be dumbfounded.
Anyway, back to the Liverpool street entertainer.
Mr. High Blood Consultant’s lullabies were mainly in English and all about the subject of love. First? Loss.
“We hope you rest in perfect peace” (Tribute to Diana); “Oh mother you seem so far away.” (Oh Mother).
Newfound love. “I was lonely until you came along” and “I wish you stay forever.”(Angela). Then, Frankness. “I am not rich yet you love me. I cannot understand why you love me.” (Track Three).
One up beat track was in Bamileke (Cameroon dialect).
I was astonished at the absence of French lyrics; suggesting perhaps this artist is trying to find acceptance in the elusive, Anglo-American rock and roll market. Some of us are always trying to do that. But the successful stars don’t. I am talking of Youssou Nd’our and Selif Keita, for instance, who always sing in their mother tongues.
Legend has it that some musicians were discovered while busking.
I am not sure about this particular busker’s chances, but what I liked was his frankness. Tell me. What more do you want from a singer- songwriter if not a genuine heart? Isn’t that what made great music in the past?
His email? meguen2ko@yahoo.co.uk.

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