Better busking

Better busking
Highlights of the festival at Sentosa’s Palawan Beach include Singapore magician Alexander Yuen, Australia’s sword swallower Aerial Manx (above) and Argentina’s Tuto Tul.

THIS year's edition of the Sentosa Buskers Festival is set to be bigger and bolder.

Starting today till next Sunday at Sentosa's Palawan Beach, there will be more than 200 performances by 19 local and international buskers, including Singapore's The Amazing Alexander Show, Argentina's Tuto Tul and Australia's Aerial Manx.

The festival has steadily grown in visitorship over the past five years, from 70,000 visitors in 2010 to nearly 100,000 last year.

One of the highlights this year is acrobat sword swallower Manx. With his execution of death-defying stunts such as doing backflips or cartwheels while swallowing a sword, he has chalked up more than 10 world records.

"I started to learn to swallow swords when I was 17, but couldn't achieve a full swallow until I was 19," the 28-year-old says in an e-mail interview. He considers himself the "original creator in the field of sword-swallowing acrobatics".

This will be his first performance in Singapore and he is "excited to share his art".

On the local front is award-winning magician Alexander Yuen of The Amazing Alexander Show. Back at the festival for a second time, Yuen will only reveal that his act will make use of an orange.

"One of the rules of magic is not to reveal what you are going to do beforehand," says the 26-year-old.

Currently pursuing a master's degree in psychology at the National University of Singapore, Yuen is also part of a three-man team behind Meta Illusions, a company that specialises in magic acts. Despite his busy schedule, he does monthly street performances on Sentosa or along Orchard Road.

"Five years ago, some would think that most buskers are beggars. Today, you can see a variety of quality acts at places such as Sentosa, Orchard Road and Clarke Quay. With the stigma of buskers slowly being eradicated, more street performers are willing to showcase their acts in public," says Yuen.

Ms Regina Chia, assistant creative director of entertainment and programming at Sentosa Leisure Management, notes that while the busking scene in Singapore is still growing, people here may not see busking as an art or viable profession.

"The Sentosa Buskers Festival hopes to improve the perception of busking in Singapore by educating and exposing Singaporeans to buskers from Singapore and all over the world. Street busking is not only a form of leisure entertainment but to some, also a career," she says.

At the festival, visitors can indulge in a favourite pastime of Singaporeans - shopping - at the artist and mini flea markets, which are new additions this year. Both will open from today to Sunday and from next Friday to Sunday.

The artist market will feature works by local talents, including digital caricatures created on electronic tablets and handmade dough figures.

As with other buskers' performances, festivalgoers will not pay a fixed price for the pieces but "tip" the artists based on how much they value each item.

Next to the market, located by the Silosa Beach carpark, is a mini flea market housing 11 local vendors selling 3-D pop-up greeting cards and handicraft accessories such as wallets and name-card holders. Visitors can get their faces painted or get airbrush tattoos.

For those who do not want to venture to Sentosa but still enjoy busking performances, head to Tampines MRT station on Monday and Ion Orchard on Tuesday and Thursday.

On these days, three buskers will perform outside each location from noon to 2pm. This exposes more Singaporeans to street performances closer to home, Ms Chia says.

Tampines resident Nur Ain Adam is looking forward to the performances in her neighbourhood.

"I have not been to the festival, but it's great that they are bringing it to the heartland. There should be more of such street performances islandwide," says the 25-year-old educator.

This article was first published on September 6, 2014.
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