Tougher times for street musicians

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Traveling street musicians who’ve played on the streets of Oslo for years have been having a tougher time earning any money this summer. They’re facing a host of new challenges, from changing customs to the introduction of regulations.

“I first came here for the atmosphere,” Jim Pizza, an American musician who insists that’s his real name, recently told newspaper Aftenposten. “But it’s dying out now. Things have changed, but in the beginning it was great to play here.”

He’s a well-known face among many Norwegians after 44 summers of seeing Pizza with his guitar, a large drum and cymbals on his back and a harmonica and kazoo mounted in front of him. Now many Norwegians don’t walk around with cash or coins in their pockets and city officials also imposed bans on playing in certain areas of Oslo after complaints about noise. Some street musicians also find themselves subject to harassment.

Pizza said the public was more enthusiastic about his music in earlier years, perhaps when he was a novelty. Now Oslo has become much more international and the novelty has worn off. An influx of beggars from Eastern Europe has also made many locals more skeptical of giving money to anyone on the street. A Ukrainian guitarist on Karl Johans gate also indicated he was stuggling as was a clarinet player from Minsk, who said he plays in Belarus’ symphony orchestra but doesn’t earn enough money and plays on the streets of Norway to aid an ill family member back home.

People are also in too much of a hurry these days to stop and listen to street musicians, according to Pizza. “They’re not interested in or motivated to listen any longer,” he told Aftenposten. “They just run from place to place.”

newsinenglish.no staff