My Busking Story
My Music Background
Before I jump into how I got started busking (and how you can too!), I first need to preface it with some background information on how I got started with music in the first place.
I was homeschooled, so I had an abundance of time to invest in other skills. At a young age, I picked up the violin. I took private lessons for roughly nine years, even continuing when my family moved overseas for eighteen months when my father relocated to Canada to set up a regional office for his company there.
Enjoying the violin but finding it not suited to modern music, I started teaching myself the guitar in 2015. Fun fact: I learned Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud in an attempt to get closer to a girl I liked back then. I only took a couple months of guitar lessons — again, private — before deciding that I wasn’t progressing nearly as fast as I wanted to. Instead, I just took a song-based approach to learning the guitar. I’d pick up whatever skills (barre chords, hammer-ons, harmonics, etc) were necessary to play whatever song I fancied playing at that particular point in time.
In 2015, I also started attending drum lessons at My Drum School. I stayed enrolled in their program until 2018, so roughly three years’ time. In that time, I also started serving in my church’s youth band, which gave me plenty of exposure to playing the drums in a band. Around this time, I also picked up playing the bass guitar at a very basic level, using the knowledge I already had from my experience with the acoustic guitar.
When the pandemic hit, all live music stopped. Movement was controlled and the number of household visitors limited to tiny numbers.
But when restrictions eased during phase 3 (before heightened alert), I hosted (Christian) music jam sessions at my house.
Now that the pandemic is slowly becoming endemic, I’m beginning to busk more, which I’ll be talking about in the next section, after some photos!
How I Got Started Busking
In 2018, two friends and I applied for a busking license under the National Arts Council’s Busking Scheme. We were successful in our application and played our first ever set in front of the Wisma Atria steps. We would continue to perform at different locations: Bishan MRT, Woodlands MRT, and other places in town, such as the Orchard Road stretch in front of Takashimaya.
In 2019, I applied for a solo busking license so I could legally busk by myself, without my other two friends being there. I collected my license a month later, and started busking by myself, mostly at Woodlands MRT as I stay up here (north side best side?).
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard. The local gig industry suffered especially hard, with all live music performances being ordered to cease immediately. Busking was included in the list of prohibited activities. On a more personal front, I enlisted into the Singapore Armed Forces in May, which effectively meant I couldn’t busk on weekdays even if COVID measures had allowed for it.
This ban on busking continued through the entirety of 2021, and consequently, I let my busking license lapse.
On 29 March 2022, the Singaporean government eased COVID-19 restrictions and allowed buskers to resume their activities. I went for the April/May auditions to renew my license and have been busking since then.
My first time busking with my friends at Wisma Atria was nerve-wracking, especially for the first few songs. Tens of our friends had flocked down to town to watch and support us, but ironically the increased spectatorship also meant more pressure to perform. I’ve since grown more confident and become more at ease singing in front of a crowd, largely thanks to experience. I’ve messed up so many times while live that it’s no big deal to mess up one more time.
I busk regularly, whenever I can find the time and energy to do so. I spent the overwhelming majority of my time busking at Woodlands MRT!