A good place for buskers

By Rhonda Dredge

Every busker adds a personal touch to their performance and Jorge Cuba is taking his gig in Degraves St seriously.

He’s arrived with a trolley of equipment for this prime spot in the CBD busking circuit.

Before the pandemic, buskers had to audition and fill in a form at the Town Hall.

Now they are a vital part of livening up the city and are being paid $200 for a four-hour stint in the ANZ City Vibes program.

Jorge said he had three to four gigs signed up per week in the lead-up to Christmas.

“I was sent an email to play,” the enthusiastic busker said. “This is very good for the city.”

The ANZ City Vibes program is a government initiative to encourage people back onto the streets.

Every day 20 buskers are heading towards lo- cations in Hardware Lane, Bourke Street Mall, Flinders Lane, Southbank Promenade, Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne Town Hall and others.

Melbourne’s busking community has been unable to perform throughout the lockdown.

“To further support the busking community a digital payment platform will be piloted,” a spokesperson for the City of Melbourne said.

“At each site buskers will be able to receive contactless QR code payments or tips via people’s smartphones.”

The initiative is supported by the Melbourne City Recovery Fund established to reactivate Melbourne in the wake of COVID-19 with con- tributions from the ANZ Bank.

“I used to be a flute player before,” Jorge said. “Now I’m playing the charango.”

Singing and wind instruments are banned during the COVID recovery period, but Jorge was quite happy to make the adjustment.

The charango is a Bolivian stringed instru- ment from Jorge’s country of origin.

While Melbourne has been coming out of lockdown and the streets are filling with music, the pandemic has resulted in the digging of mass graves in his home country.

“We have a new government two weekends ago,” Jorge said. “I don’t want to go back.”

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