On October 3rd at 3.00 pm in Berlin, at the Kammermusiksaal of the Berliner Philharmoniker , the “Enlightened Piano Radio Awards” concert will take place.
This event, whose protagonists are world-famous musicians from all over the world, takes place every year in a different city and this year the wonderful Berlin location was chosen.
The Enlightened Piano Radio (EPR) is an American radio station whose purpose is to broadcast piano music through streaming 24/7, and with services to the public such as educational workshops, retreats and concerts.
This association of artists, born from the idea of the American Donovan Johnson to promote composers and performers of exclusively piano music, is proud to be the home of artists who make music for cinema and television, but also of itinerant musicians who work both in a way independent than in groups. The active artists who can be heard on the radio are already almost 200.
And it is precisely by searching for more detailed information on this event that I discovered one of the many parallel worlds that dot the universe of music, and in particular that of street music and street musicians, the Buskers.
But I do a rewind.
BerlinitalyPOST calls me to tell me that there is an interesting article to write for me that I love to tell extraordinary stories of people known in the most bizarre ways: an Italian artist will perform in this international concert-prize in Berlin: David Stramaglia .
I find the announcement of the event published by David himself on the Facebook group of Italians in Berlin. The immediate curiosity to get to know this artist is born in me and I write to him.
A life as a busker
David answers me immediately and we organize a video call since he lives and works in London for six years.
It’s a fury of information that starts to overlap with what David gives me: the first fifteen minutes of the interview are almost hypnotized by that enthusiasm that completely distorts my lineup of questions.
Let’s recap a moment and block it to recover a minimum of order and let’s start from the final part of this story, or from its current work.
“I do busking”, he tells me with a nice big smile on his lips and, probably convinced that I don’t know what it is, he explains to me in a few words what it is.
Making street music has been my life since I arrived in London six years ago, and to think that I didn’t even want to come here, I didn’t really care!
In fact, David didn’t speak a word of English yet, despite having been in his thirties for a while, with the enthusiasm of a boy he decided to leave his little world in Italy (four bands in which he played and a courier job) and work in London first of all to learn the language.
So he finds himself playing at the King Cross Station: the mythical station where Harry Potter starts from platform 9 and 3/4 for his great magician adventure.
For David, the adventure as a street musician begins, with the best wishes, given the success of Harry Potter.
In King Cross and St. Pancras (the new portion of King Cross station) in fact there are pianos available to street musicians.
This wonderful initiative seems to have started from the artistic project of Luke Jerram, a British installation artist. With the name “Play me, I’m Yours“, 1,500 pianos were installed in 50 cities around the world from New York to London.
Many of these pianos, after the project that lasted three weeks in 2012, were donated to charity, but some of these are still available to continue playing just like at the St. Pancras station in London.
But it’s not so rosy.
David tells me that the first two and a half years are smooth yarns like oil.
I had found a respectable job in a restaurant where I worked dealing with delivery, but at some point the restaurant owner, a very fickle character, he leaves me at home giving me only two months to look for another job .
David frowns a bit as he tells me this part of his life, as if this wound was still a little open. But then he smiles full face and tells me how after this event, he decides to take back his life as a musician.
Forced almost to starvation, without work and without a home, because in the meantime he also separates himself from his Italian companion, in the three weeks in which he is hosted by acquaintances, he develops the conviction of wanting only to play the piano in his life. One day, at St Pancras, stopping to play in one of the pianos available while he was going home, he sees a sign in which Roland announces a competition that has a digital piano as a prize.
David crunches his fingers and starts to play with a beating drum: “My hands no longer worked as my brain reminded them”, he says, “And I thought I could no longer play, to have lost everything I had learned in so many years of conservatory, when my friends called me Mozart. But I didn’t give up and started training seriously every day, even for eight consecutive hours with my 700 Pound keyboard ”.
Begin to personalize famous songs by turning them into new masterpieces. His hands fly over the keys as if guided by an almost supernatural force and these sounds reshaped by his genius become viral: on YouTube his video for Pirates Of The Caribbean and Game Of Thrones Piano has now reached almost 6 million views!
He pauses again for a moment, sighs and tells me all the sacrifices he has made to get where he is now.
The conservatory where he arrived playing only with one hand because until then he had had a small gift keyboard from his mother a few years earlier; the hard years in which he had to put music aside because he had to work, even “selling door-to-door vacuum cleaners”; when he lost his job and remained without a penny and had to leave his home to recover some money; the friends who helped him sustain himself for some time; his new courier job for a great freight forwarder and his bands where he tried to raise some money by playing around in clubs.
And finally, the day he arrived in London with his dream in the drawer without knowing where to start. To the separation from his former partner up to the lucky meeting with Patricia, his current partner, with whom he had a daughter who today is a little over a year old.
All in one breath tells me the details of this adventure of which he is proud and at times he stops incredulously how many things he managed to do in such a short time, he who without a minimum of hesitation openly declares to have only done middle school and that his only education is his music cultivated during years of conservatory and on the street.
He calls himself a busker for all intents and purposes, 365 days a year he leaves his house every afternoon after having cared for his daughter Grace all morning. And he plays about six hours in the Underground.
But only for some time in Underground because “Prima …”, he wants to emphasize,
I played with wind, rain and snow even at minus 4 with legs cold frozen and fingers frozen to the touch for gloves at the ends to hear the piano keys. But I’ve never given up and I’ll never give up.
I then ask David what his plans are and what he dreams of doing in the future.
“An audition within an event, another Awards, the” 21st Century Icon Awards “, an engagement as a pianist at the Plaza Hotel in London, a band of its own with voices and instruments, traveling around the world making Live music.
Interestingly, David has composed two albums so far: “THE BIRTH” and “THE PATH”. Some of the titles of his songs belong to very particular periods of his life such as “Fifth month” written in the fifth month of pregnancy of his Patricia when he was waiting for Grace, or “Anjelica” which tells the loss of his first child in the first trimester of pregnancy: both beautiful and touching. Some have been named after special people who have and are part of his life, such as “Ocean” (which will play in Berlin) whose title was chosen by his sister.
Hearing his stories and remembering the hundreds of street musicians met over all these years, he makes me think that time for a street artist is neither hot nor cold, and for the hands of a musician this time is like the wind that it passes over the new leaves in spring and makes the dry leaves fly on the avenues in autumn. It is a time that passes, in the eyes of the unaware, sometimes unnoticed, but with motions of suffering and joy for others.
Those who could see them play know that the wind passes through and all around them and guides their progress, their notes, their performances, towards a mysterious journey that has a different goal in each of them.
I have to close our conversation in spite of myself.
I have been listening to this musician for four days, who is responsible for pulling an old love for the piano out of my drawer and for making me appreciate even more the dozens of artists seen here in Berlin, in the streets, in the stations, at Mauer Park and down in the U-Bahn.
Thank you David for your music.