Musicians of every sort – professional, amateur, rock bands or baroque troupes – any age and wherever they are in the world are being urged to take part in the first annual Musequality World Busk. The location is a pavement (or any other public space) near you and the time is any time (in social hours) during Musequality World Busk Week – from Monday, 8 June to Sunday, 14 June.

Sunday will be a special day for young musicians to join in and will be the day Musequality aims to set a record for the largest simultaneous busk the world has ever seen.

Musequality, a UK-based charity, funds communal music projects for some of the poorest children in the developing world, giving them the chance to learn essential skills and discover the self-esteem and confidence they need to turn their lives around. It was founded in 2007 by professional violinist David Juritz, leader of the London Mozart Players and the London Tango Quintet, when he set off Round the World and Bach, playing Bach for solo violin in 50 cities in 24 countries on every continent except Antarctica. He takes his inspiration from El Sistema, Venezuela’s world-famous youth music programme that has improved so many young lives, and other projects such as Buskaid in South Africa and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra set up by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim.

The busk is open to any musician – singer or instrumentalist – and the only qualification is the ability to smile at passers by, nodding or thanking them if they donate, while continuing to play. Children playing a piece they need to learn are just as likely to draw a crowd as are well-practised professionals playing or singing together.

The money raised will help set up new projects – Musequality is actively fundraising for a string instrument project in Goa, India – and expand existing projects – the M-Lisada Brass Band and the Tender Talents choral project, both in Kampala, Uganda; the Melodi Music woodwind project in Soweto and the Hout Bay string, voice and drumming project in Cape Town, both in South Africa.

“Busking is great fun,” says Juritz a seasoned busker who can’t resist the chance to pick up his violin and play on the streets of London – or wherever he is performing. “All you need is a bit of bottle – and children, especially, will also need a bottler (someone who collects money from the audience) to accompany them and keep them safe.

“Busking is also a great leveller,” Juritz continues. “People make assumptions about you, just as they do about street children in the developing world. When I stood outside Zurich’s famous Tonhalle concert hall playing to the audience as they went in, I earned just two Swiss Francs in 20 minutes, 400 times less than my fee the last time I’d played there. The difference? This time I was standing on the steps rather than the stage.” But many well-known musicians busked when starting out. “It’s a great way to get better known and build confidence. If you can accept the indifference of some passers by and carry on performing, regardless of the rejection you’ll feel, the pleasure you’ll experience when someone stops to listen appreciatively is as good as a standing ovation in a world-class concert hall.

“Children in our projects talk about the difficulties they face: the prejudice that because they have nothing they are worth nothing, and the assumption that they cannot possibly make a contribution to their society. Yet, when you ask them, their ambitions are the same as ours: they want to improve their lives and be known for being good at something. One young boy in one of our African projects wants to be a journalist so he can write about the problems of children and help them. Another, a girl, wants to be an economist. Without being given the chance to turn their lives around, many children in the developing world face a life on the streets and risk drifting into drug culture, violence and crime. These kids really want to build better societies for themselves. We’d like to give them the chance they are looking for,” Juritz explains.

Anyone who plays a musical instrument, or sings in a choir or group, knows that it teaches skills that are valuable in other aspects of life. In societies with entrenched gender inequalities, it challenges prejudices and gives girls a chance to express and assert themselves and be valued as equals.

“Social exclusion and lack of opportunity are major factors in creating the corrosive mix of low self-esteem and under-achievement that plagues disadvantaged communities, Juritz continues. “Music programmes offer no miracle cure but they are a reliable and effective way of addressing those problems. When young people join a choir, band or an orchestra, they enter into a world where their contribution matters. Inappropriate behaviour spoils the experience not only for the group, but also for them – and the feedback is instant. As they tackle more complex music the children gain confidence and discover that, by working constructively, together with their peers, they can achieve something truly amazing.

“The developing world desperately needs qualified and able teachers, doctors, farmers, lawyers, scientists, business people, decision-makers and leaders – drawn from their own communities. If it is to have those people in the future it needs – today – to help its young people develop the essential skills and qualities that will enable them to turn their lives around and fill these and other important roles. Communal music-making teaches those skills and qualities – and changes lives,” David Juritz concludes.

If you want to join in with the Musequality World Busk, register at worldbusk.org where you will find all the tips and guidance you need for a safe, hassle-free busk.

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