Toronto Street Busker Profile: Shibaten
Street busker Shibaten makes music with his heart, across the globe, with nearly every instrument imaginable. Perhaps best known for his didgeridoo playing, he has been a regular at Yonge and Dundas for the past three summers, and calls the square the best place in the world to busk.
I met and spoke with him earlier this week, only to learn that it was his last time busking in Toronto, for now. He had plans for yet another spiritual journey that would eventually take him to Singapore and Japan, and he didn't know when he'd be back. A guestbook in front of his tips basket was filled with well-wishes from old and new friends alike, including people who had come out just to catch Shibaten while he was still in the city.
One audience member may have described Shibaten's music best when she came up to him after his performance, saying, "It's something I've never heard before. And yet it's something I've definitely heard before."
From his eagerness to connect with others to the eclectic blend of sounds that define his art, it's obvious that Shibaten does what he does to share with the world a universal beauty.
Tell me a bit about yourself. Who is Shibaten?
Who am I? My name is Shibaten, and I'm from Osaka, Japan, although I've never busked in Japan. I've been traveling for more than 10 years and busking for four and a half years, all over the world. I've been to over 30 countries.
How did you get into busking?
I love traveling, and I love music. I also wanted to make money at the same time, so busking was the best way. I started playing music when I was a teenager, and stopped when I was 18. Then I started traveling, but I didn't play when I started -- I was looking for my life's passion. I tried so many things for seven years, and finally, I came back to music. I realized, "Okay, this is my life."
What are all the instruments you play, and where are they from?
Didgeridoo (from Australia), djembe (from Guinea), sese (from Mali), foot nuts bells (from Indonesia), Tibetan bells (from Tibet), Thai gong (from Thailand), wind chimes (from Indonesia), Chinese cymbal (from China), clapsticks (from Burkina Faso), African bell (from Guinea), Chau gong (from China), stomp box (from Australia), ORB (from Canada), bamboo winds (from Indonesia), kalimba (from South Africa), acoustic guitar, and bass guitar.
But the didgeridoo is special. If you listen to electric guitar all day, you get tired, but not if you listen to the didgeridoo. The electric guitar, you feel in your ears. The didgeridoo, you feel in your heart. It's more human.
How long have you been in Toronto?
I've been in Toronto for three summers, but next I'm going to Arizona, California, Missouri, and New York. To bring everything with me, I have to drive.
What would you say is your musical genre?
Music is a universal language. I can make friends, I can communicate wherever I go. That is because I play spiritual music. Music is from the spirit, and the balance of this earth -- trees, water, people, buildings -- is my inspiration. I need balance with my music, too.
Do you have any CDs out?
I have two CDs, which are available from my website.
If you could pick one place in the world to busk, where would you go?
Toronto. People here are nice and have open minds. People are from all over the world. And I have this place, Yonge and Dundas, to busk. That's an important thing.
Any interesting stories from your busking you'd like to share?
I busk everywhere I go, all over the world, in different countries. Every time, same problem. I draw a huge crowd in the street...and then the police come. I've been to court, too. But it's not my fault! And sometimes, other buskers see the huge crowd and get jealous, so they try to attack me.
This is why Yonge and Dundas is the best place in the world to busk. The other buskers here are very professional, too.
What's the most interesting thing you've had dropped into your basket while busking?
I think ganja. But I don't smoke. People think I smoke because I do so many unusual things.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
I want to tell them, "Watch my life. And you will feel my spirit."
Watch Shibaten perform several original pieces below.
Every Friday, Busker Profiles aim to shed some light on the talented people who add a little something to our daily commute -- Toronto's true "underground" musicians, in the TTC or on the street.