In 2013, home-grown indie-folk duo The Glad Stones decided to take their act a little farther from their usual busking haunts around Haji Lane. All the way to the streets of Japan, in fact.
Busking in the city of Osaka turned out to be a game-changer for singer-songwriters Marcel Lee Pereira, 33, and Jaye Foo, 22.
Pereira is a digital sub-editor at The Straits Times. Foo is a music entrepreneur planning to open a music studio.
Pereira says: "Many buskers there take their shows seriously and are of a high standard, and usually have a crowd of locals gathered around them. Likewise, we had to step up our game.
"That night of busking in Osaka felt more like a performance in a real venue and we were inspired to push ourselves further after that positive experience."
Never mind that the Japanese could not understand their original tunes, taken from their 2012 debut album, Gypsy In The City. The duo were "pleased with the response from the people there".
"Many weren't able to understand our lyrics, which are in English, but that did not seem to matter as long as the music sounded good to them," says Pereira. "It also helped that Jaye could converse in Japanese and introduced us."
If you haven't heard of The Glad Stones yet, ST Sessions is exactly the platform that aims to introduce Singapore musicians to a wider audience that is constantly exposed to bigger international acts and the massive publicity machines powering them. Find out more about The Glad Stones in our videos here.
Singapore musicians have taken - and are still taking - their music abroad. But instead of flashy venues or juggernaut festivals, some opt to lay the groundwork for international exposure by busking in foreign lands.
For The Glad Stones, playing in Osaka from 8pm to midnight in one night meant that they made 10,000 yen (S$114) from passers-by who bought 10 of the 30 CDs they took with them.
"Our aim was to experience busking," adds Pereira. "It was a bonus having our albums bought by passers-by who were hearing us for the first time."
They also performed at small pubs and bars in the city of Kobe to audiences of up to 50. They were not paid for those gigs.
Choosing the right location to busk is an art in itself, say the musicians, as there are many factors to consider. The Glad Stones chose an area near the Osaka train station as it was already an established spot for buskers.
However, that meant having to work out a schedule with the other musicians who perform there. "For the popular spots around Osaka station, there is usually a 'queue'. These buskers will take turns to use the popular spots," says Pereira.
The experience in Japan has inspired The Glad Stones to busk outside Singapore more often. Pereira says: "We love the freedom of busking and would do it anywhere around the world, if and when we get the chance to. We feel closer to the audience on the street."
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