It was a typical Friday evening outside the Zhujianglu station, lights lit and road busy. People coming and going, a young man with light denim jacket and Dr. Marten boots arranged his equipment; a guitar, a loudspeaker and a microphone while he got ready for his performance.
With no opening remarks, he started singing, but few people stopped by, nor opened their wallets. If you were observant enough, you would notice some scattered change in his guitar case, along with free newspapers yellowed with age.
His name is Wu Junguang (吴君广), an ordinary busker on the street. Three years ago, he left his hometown, Guiyang, for Nanjing to earn a living. He started a business with some friends. However, his business failed shortly after he arrived. This setback pushed him to become a busker. “The atmosphere of music in Nanjing is quite good, so I chose to busk for money”, the 30-year-old young man said.
The story doesn’t only belong to Wu Junguang. There are many buskers in Nanjing who share the same course of life with Wu; busking away from hometown just for a living. There are no accurate statistics on how many buskers there are in Nanjing, but they are singing in many places, in and outside the subway stations or on the busy streets, waiting for your listening.
On this Friday evening, more and more people were attracted by Wu’s singing, some even sitting on the ground and clapping every time the busker finished one of his Chinese folk songs. Among them, there are tired workers, young students, and curious children, all gathering because of the music. A little boy was encouraged by his mother to put 10 yuan into the guitar case, and received a thank you in return. Acknowledgement is the only interaction between Wu and his audience.
“Sometimes I can see familiar faces in my different performances, and I know they are enjoying it, so I think words are not necessary. Just sing, and it is enough,” Wu said with a big, proud laugh. Obviously, his mind resonates with his listeners through the singing. Mr. Pan, a media worker, is Wu's regular listener. “There are few sincere and true expression like this in this fickle world. The more I experience, the more fake things I see. So the performance is kind of comfort”, he said.
Apart from his “fans”, Wu Junguang also has some busker friends. They will hang out together just like a common friend circle, but they have never performed together. Not that they don’t want to, but for some more realistic reasons. For one thing, the rehearsal of a band takes a lot of effort. For another, Wu’s favorite music type is folk songs, which usually takes the form of singing and playing alone. What binds Wu and his friends together is their shared appetite and similar living condition.
Before his last song, Wu quickly saw the time with his cell phone, then announced that he should go after the next song. Awaiting him was another job of singing in the bar at 9 p.m., which is his major income source. The schedule of Wu is very simple, practicing and resting in the daytime, busking from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., then working as a bar singer at night. All of these help him “make ends meet”. But the “simple schedule” is not so simple sometimes. There are always chances that he picks a bad time or place to perform or is driven away by the merciless Cheng Guan street management officers. It is also common that some people just regard him as beggar, so they give alms with a haughty air. To a singer, it’s quite a gross insult but happens every day. “They have pride and so have I. But I just don’t care what they think. That’s none of my business”, Wu said.
Luckily, there is still something giving him strength to move forward. Wu often goes to watch other vocal concerts by some unknown balladeers just like him. When he watches them, he watches himself. He hopes one day he can have his own original songs and improve his life through music. His dream is not poetic or big. He deeply knows reality always comes before ideality. So he does not dream of being famous, or earning lots of money. Like many of his busker brethren, all he wants is to live more easily with music.
The performance ended. Everyone left. With people coming and going, he packed up his luggage, leaving for the next performance, his shadow lengthened under the street lamp, as a lonely king.