There is no shortage of daily concerts and shows in Shanghai, but people also encounter their favourite songs at street corners amid the hustle and bustle of city life.
Since 2014 Shanghai has encouraged busking as part of its urban cultural scene and introduced rules that encouraged such shows while keeping them in order. That year the Shanghai Performance Trade Association issued the first eight licences, and the number of licensed buskers has grown since then.
More than 300 people perform at more than a dozen designated places now. When Fu Zhuo was studying in a high school in Shanghai five years ago he bumped into a singing guitarist performing on a street, which impressed him and planted in him the “seed of street performance”.
“Earlier I wished I could sing to people on the streets of Shanghai someday,” said Fu, who learned to play classical guitar in his childhood. The realisation of his dream took a detour when Fu went to study in Leicester, England, in 2017.
“There is a culture of busking and street art in the UK, which encouraged me to start my journey,” he said. From 2018 to 2020 he performed in Leicester city centre in his spare time every week, and sometimes he went to other cities to perform.
He also recorded and uploaded his songs to the Chinese video-sharing platform Bilibili, where his videos have been viewed nearly five million times. “You never know what kind of audience you’re going to encounter and what kind of chemistry it is going to create,” Fu says. “It’s an exciting experience.”
On returning to Shanghai last year he was told he needed to obtain a licence to perform on the street.Fu said he understands the arrangements, because through selecting and granting licences, buskers’ personal safety and the stability and quality of the performance can be better guaranteed.
In May when Fu finally got a licence from the Shanghai Performance Trade Association, he proudly put that on his Bilibili profile page. “It’s a big family, and I got to know a lot of new friends who are dedicated to music,” Fu said of the association. “I’m also happy to see that the way people think changes – they’re no longer regarding buskers as vagabonds or homeless people.”
In addition to music performers, there are also street handicraft artists, balloon clowns and magicians who take daily shifts to entertain people with their talent across 16 spots in downtown Shanghai, the most notable one being the square in front of Jing’an Park.
Wei Zhi, chairman of the association, told the news outlet ThePaper.cn that the street artists were the first to resume shows in the city when Covid-19 was brought under control in China, and have given more than 10,000 performances since last year.
“They have also performed in the city’s major festivals – and have performed outside the observation area of vaccination centres to entertain people waiting in lines,” Wei said. “The street artists not only reflect the city’s management level, but take part in it, too.”
Fan Xuehan and Yang Hong contributed to this story
Previously published on Chinadaily.com.cn
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