Silence. Space. This is how it felt after arriving from New Delhi straight in Kyrgyzstan’s green and pretty relaxed capital of Bishkek. Where are the people? How would busking work if there are barely any pedestrians on the wide streets?

It was a wrong first impression, though. Reaching the center, more and more people appeared – still a pleasant nothing compared to the mad streets of Indian cities. On the main boulevard a busker appeared at the entrance of an underpass  – a ragged, old man with guitar and beer. Let that be a good sign, I told to myself. Ben won’t have to explain anymore the concept of street music, as people seem to know busking already…in some form.

It was true. People were not surprised at all seeing me and sometimes I was even taken as a local. If anything, it was me being rather surprised by a pretty extraordinary good taste of music. Passers-by would stop, waiting to see if I am indeed able to play well and if voting positive, would demonstrate the appreciation by dropping a coin or a banknote. I even got many sophisticated requests like Tchaikovsky or Paganini – a big contrast to the Celine Dion craze in India.

Everyday I played around Bishkek Park, one of the modern and fancy malls in the city, in the late afternoons, when sun wouldn’t shine that strongly anymore and people would go for shopping or walks. Most of them threw smiles at me and many stopped. Some gave flowers, some asked for interviews or violin lessons, some offered fresh fruits and stayed next to me for a whole session. Like always, street music brought new friends. Moneywise, Bishkek was a good city for busking. So good, that during our time there we managed to gather more money than we spent in 2 months in the country. We even managed to dedicate a session to this project that we like and support.

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On the downside, aside from Bishkek, there is barely any other place to busk in the country. We were counting on Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second city and hub in the south. But Osh had more of a big village atmosphere in the end without the wealth and development accumulated in Bishkek. While it was still fun to play and be there, from an economical standpoint it didn’t do much. Maybe because the main road was in construction, or because I was there during Ramazan, the only place where I could find people was in a park. Except few children and their parents, I had as audience a bunch of old guys who would ask me to play Kyrgyz music again and again.

Overall, busking in Kyrgyzstan was more of an European experience again. Not too many extraordinary events, many people just throwing money and moving on, but then still enough people who appreciate any kind of art and would always stop for at least a short conversation. But it was no big show anymore, like many times in India or Iran.

Highlights:

  • Being invited for a video shooting in a studio
  • Playing for Casa Jurnalistului
  • Bunch of guys beat-boxing on my music
  • Jamming with Neil from Canada on didgeridoo
  • Being interviewed by nice young ladies
  • Being invited to play at a birthday party – free cake!
  • Playing with the drunkards of Bishkek
  • Young guy taking my violin and playing Kyrgyz music
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