Street talent

The Kuziem Singers in Basel, Oct. 2011

Switzerland has no shortage of street talent, a fact proven again on our trip to Basel where we ran into the Kuziem Singers, a family gospel band performing under the shelter of the city hall arcade during a rainy Saturday. My camera battery was running low so I captured only this small clip (click here), but you can see, hear and read more about them at their website here.

Between songs, Beryl Kuzi told me that they are from Angola and they sing on the streets most days. They speak French, with only a smattering of English, although their repertoire does include a lot of English songs. Beryl and Meki (daughter and mother) Kuzi’s beautiful voices reverberated inside the brick and stone arcade with an orchestra of rainfall and street noise in the background, something that my humble digital recorder did not pick up well enough to do justice to their performance.

Not too far away stood a lone accordion player. Accordionists are everywhere and they make walking into a Swiss square feel like walking onto a movie set. It’s enchanting.

Street performers here fall in the whole musical range from a roaming cowboy gig to violinists. They are all amazingly good. I’d like to be more critical, but I can’t.

I’ve been pretty shy about approaching street performers to ask the questions we really want to know: How much do they make? Is it a decent living? Do they do other work? Why are they here? What drove them from their home country?

That last question is one triggered by the sight of the Kuziem’s traditional African garb – it doesn’t often come to mind when watching Canadian street performers, although perhaps they have stories, too.

Maybe I will get bolder. I used to be bold. I asked street performers all of the above questions when I was a reporter.


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