I generally do not watch local TV programmes, for the simple reason that I never quite learnt how to switch on the various boxes that need to be switched on in addition to the TV. As such, for the past few years since I came home from US, the number of times I switched on the TV can be counted with one hand. When a friend recommended “City Buskers,” I was skeptical and wasn’t really planning on catching it. However, things happened and I ended up watching the programme online via Catch-Up TV on XINMSN. And I must say that I am quite taken with this programme! A cross between reality TV and documentary, City Buskers follows 3 musicians from Singapore as they busk from Singapore to Seoul, through eight cities in Asia including Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila. In each episode, we join the musicians in learning more about the local pop music scene as well as uncovering local traditional musical instruments and exploring how they can be integrated into contemporary compositions. The 3 musicians will compose a song for every city the stop at, seeking inspiration from their encounters with local musicians and their day-to-day experience of the city.
The main draw for me, for this programme would be the three travelling musicians, Serena Chen, Fifi Leong and Nur Din Hidayat. I look forward to seeing the spark in their eyes when they meet fellow musicians and learn new musical instruments; such passion cannot be an act. It is also interesting to see that despite the language barrier, these musicians were able to jam together, and as Fifi reminded us in episode 2, music is truly a universal language that brings people together. While these Singaporean musicians did not understand Thai, they did know what was E Major, which allowed them to jam with the Thai musicians.
I enjoy hearing the city buskers talk about their musical journey and their experience jamming and busking in the various cities, reflecting a passion that reminds me to pursue my own. As they interact with the local musicians, I begin to develop new understanding and awareness of the universal struggles of musicians, across cities and at the same time become more cognisant that musical talent, or any other forms of talent, exists regardless of environment, even though environment plays a large part in determining whether the talent is nurtured or suppressed. Even if you are not someone interested in music, it is still worth your while tuning in to this programme. Personally, I find that the programme shows me a different side of the city, a side that perhaps I would not be exposed to if I were there as a tourist.
To me, this programme is about music, about busking, but it is also about growth, about culture, about people and about places. There are many different layers to each episode and you can apply different lens to enjoy this programme. The richness inherent in each episode is what makes me tune in each week, wanting to find out more about the experiences of the city buskers, waiting to be introduced to new local musicians and seeing how people from other cities respond to music and busking, looking beneath the surface for a deeper understanding of each city featured.
May you enjoy this musical and cultural journey as well, with the City Buskers. City Buskers is aired every Wednesday at 10 pm on OKTO. You can watch it online via XINMSN Catch-Up TV as well.
Note: This review is written after watching Episode 1 and 2 of the programme online and reflects my personal opinion. It is not commissioned by any individual or organisation and no renumeration is sought and received for this review.