Profile: Ben the Busker

KATIE MAIR talks to Ben the busker about students, reggae, and love in a cold climate.

busker Music profile reggae Students

Ben Paul is difficult to miss, dressed in billowing rainbow trousers, a stripey woollen waistcoat and several necklaces featuring various friendly insects. He also wears a lime-green top-hat adorned with faux flowers.

Ben plays in a reggae band, The Uprising Crew, and reckons that reggae makes good busking music, especially on a busy day like Saturday, when people are rushing around: ‘”it’s loud, tuneful, and everyone needs some good vibrations”.

When it looks like it’s going to be a promising day, Ben goes out to busk, although “not for that long, about two hours, usually.” His girlfriend works at the natural hemp clothing stall across the road on the market, so he can see her as he works, which is nice.

Somewhat ambitiously, Ben hopes to put the money he makes towards a trip to Australia, but he says that’s not really why he does it: “it’s a bonus, but I just like to bring music to the people.” This is a relief, because I counted £4.70 in his guitar case at 3.00pm, and he packed up and left as soon as we finished talking.

He doesn’t have a conventional job at the moment, but might start teaching guitar lessons. He met his girlfriend at his last full-time job at the ice-rink on Parker’s Piece. Romance blossomed in Arctic conditions, and he chose to stick around in Cambridge when the skating season ended.

When asked about Cambridge Students, Ben is enthusiastic: “yeah, they’re lovely – I haven’t met any that aren’t. I’ve got quite a few good mates who are Cambridge students, actually.”

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“What do you mean by ‘costumes’?”

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Ben reckons that his most successful tunes are ‘One Love’ and ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, possibly because they are two of his favourites, so he puts “extra energy” into them. Already energetic to the point of jangling jewellery and precariously perched headgear, I wonder if the result would be more alarming than disarming.

Noting his interactive outfit, I ask where he finds his costumes. Ben frowns.”What do you mean by ‘costumes’?”

Ben wears his “everyday” clothes for performance (“Yes, the hat. Even the hat.”), making use of his connections at the market, and recommending Cambridge’s charity shops as good places to find unusual garments.

Feeling compelled to compensate for detaining him for a significant proportion of his miniature working day, I promise to include his contact details for those interested in learning guitar, and leave him to deal with the French tourists who are requesting a photograph of their friend simulating musical sex with his instrument.

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If you would like to have guitar lessons with Ben, drop him an email at [email protected]