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NDP organising committee's call for 'volunteer' buskers to perform for free sparks outcry among community

SINGAPORE — A call for "volunteer" buskers from the National Day Parade (NDP) organising committee has left some of them upset that they were invited to perform without pay and with only a week's notice before National Day (Aug 9). 

A file photograph of Mr Muhammad Firdaus Osman, one of the buskers who believes it would have been appropriate to offer remuneration to the buskers invited to play at the National Day Parade 2022.

A file photograph of Mr Muhammad Firdaus Osman, one of the buskers who believes it would have been appropriate to offer remuneration to the buskers invited to play at the National Day Parade 2022.

  • A call for "volunteer" buskers from the National Day Parade organising committee has left some of them upset
  • They felt that they were asked to perform without pay and with only a week's notice before National Day (Aug 9)
  • The committee already planned for performances at heartland areas across the country, such as at certain stadiums
  • Some buskers told TODAY that the nature of the invitation went against the community's efforts to correct misperceptions
  • They felt they were often portrayed as "unprofessional" performers or "beggars"

SINGAPORE — A call for "volunteer" buskers from the National Day Parade (NDP) organising committee has left some of them upset that they were invited to perform without pay and with only a week's notice before National Day (Aug 9). 

Given the unhappiness, it is not clear if the committee's plan will go ahead. It has not replied to TODAY's queries.

Mr Jonathan Goh, 26, a busker who performs circus acts, said on Wednesday (Aug 3) that even if buskers could not be paid for their performances, the committee should have offered to cover transportation and meal costs. 

Speaking to TODAY in a phone interview, he said: "For me or some of these musicians, we might have to cab down (because of our equipment) and the cab fare can cost up to S$40. If we are going to the heartland areas or there are fireworks, there will also be a surge in the fare. There is a lot of time and labour spent on it." 

Mr Goh, who is also the co-chairperson of the Buskers' Association Singapore, noted that the call for buskers specified that circus acts were not preferred, but added that he was commenting about the costs incurred by buskers performing at events. 

After he received the message from the committee, which was sent into a WhatsApp chat group with 129 buskers on Aug 1, he decided to write about this on Facebook. The post has since garnered more than 20 shares and comments.

The message was sent out by another busker, but had been issued "on behalf of the NDP2022 Organising Committee". The busker said that the committee was "keen on relevant busking acts such as performance of NDP songs" and that there would not be remuneration for their performances. 

TODAY has verified that the message from the committee is authentic.

For this year's National Day celebrations, the committee already planned for celebrations at suburban areas across the country, at spots such as Bedok Stadium, Jurong West Stadium and the open field next to Ang Mo Kio Public Library.

Besides celebrations over the upcoming National Day Parade weekend, fireworks will be set off at the five suburban sites. 

TODAY sent queries on Wednesday to the organising committee to ask when it planned to include busking acts and why it decided to invite performers to busk on a voluntary basis.

NEGATING EFFORTS TO IMPROVE BUSKERS' IMAGE

The four buskers who spoke to TODAY received the message on the same WhatsApp group and said that the nature of the invitation went against the community's efforts to correct misperceptions that they are "unprofessional" performers or "beggars". 

Mr Bryan Wong, 26, a circus busker, said: "The message adds to the image that buskers are beggars or just doing it for fun. It is an impression we are trying to change and a good handful of us are doing it."

The message adds to the image that buskers are beggars or just doing it for fun. It is an impression we are trying to change and a good handful of us are doing it.
Mr Bryan Wong, circus busker
Another busker, Mr Teo Yong Kang, 25, felt that the message implied that buskers were asked to join in as "free labour". 

He said: "With such a significant budget allocated to the planning and execution of our National Day event, it feels like an oversight that they had not catered enough budget to pay buskers for their time and effort. 

"The message also implies that buskers would be required to take along all of their equipment, prepare a special list of NDP songs that may or may not be in their usual setlist, to entertain a crowd for no remuneration and there would be no tipping from the crowd." 

Others said that it might set a bad precedent for future events. 

Mr Goh said: "If you're a closed-door event with around 30 people, I won't say anything.

"But because it is National Day and coming from the committee, it can set the precedent for other events. Other event organisers might say that because buskers performed for NDP for free, so we don't need to pay them also, just invite them to busk without hiring them." 

Many buskers, who depend heavily on gigs as a source of income, have also been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic

Mr Muhammad Firdaus Osman, 28, a busker who sings and plays the guitar, said: "After two years of not earning money, I'm sure buskers want to earn and not want to do it for free.

"Though it's a good initiative, the committee did not think through it in terms of remuneration. Even the other performers are paid and it's the same, so why are we not?" 

Related topics

busking buskers NDP 2022

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