Who’s Busking in Toronto?

August 22 – 25 is the date for the Scotiabank Buskerfest 2013 in Toronto. This event is the largest fundraiser of the year for Epilepsy Toronto. This year’s Buskerfest is going to be on Yonge Street – a big win for the event. Applications for entertainers are accepted every year from January – April. It’s great exposure for the few musicians and bands accepted, and all for a great cause.

Between Routine

Billy James recording for Between Routine
Toronto Busker Billy James recording for “Between Routine”.
Photo courtesy Jeff Hazin

But who are the real buskers in Toronto? There are many. Recently, a Toronto recording artist decided he was curious about the Toronto subway buskers. He decided to meet them and produce a compilation album.

Did you know that the TTC chooses buskers for 3 years at a time? These are not fly-by-night musicians. These people are committed. The license fee alone costs $198. Think of that the next time you walk by that open guitar case! Applications for musicians are available at the TTC website. Next auditions will be held in 2015. Only about 74 acts are chosen. They are a special treat, colouring the air for Toronto underground commuters.

One commuter who noticed was Jeff Hazin. This is what happened in his words:

For several years I have been passing by subway and busk musicians while commuting into the heart of Toronto from the north. Each day taking off my head phones for that slight moment of tranquility that those musicians provide me with. Eventually, I got to know some of these musicians on a more personal level. I asked them to join in on a project where I would electrify their sound with my own. Through this process I got the chance to know each musician as a person, and as a friend. For the most part, each of them has a great history, expressing why they play, how they began to play, and how their lives lead to Toronto. This unique bunch was truly the most skillful set of musicians that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I started off by producing with each of them individually. For the most part the process was as follows. Chat and hang out, do some recordings, a few more recordings, then I would take it home and add my own electric touch to it. After the song was created I would go back to the studio to mix and master each track. The album is not just any album. It’s my homage to a city that I love; it’s homage to my home. Between all the crud and smog, grey buildings, and busy people there is truly a significant amount of beauty our city has to offer. Essentially the album is a reminder to all my listeners that it does not hurt to take a slight moment in a busy, stressful day to stop and embrace. Take those headphones off and listen to the music of our city. Art is all over Toronto, and who knows how long the art that is currently present will stick around for. A moment between your routine is all I ask.

Between Routine will be available May 30, 2013. The Album features Billy James, one of Toronto’s earliest subway musicians, as well as other subway musicians like Daniel Huezo, Marko, Mel Herrietha, Leo Zhang, Antonio Perreti, and busk musician Tyler Nellson. Any proceeds made from album downloads and any other sales (a ‘Pay What You Want’ basis) will be given to Toronto Sick Kids Hospital. I’ll give you the link as soon as it’s available.

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