“You can tell when it’s cooking, when the vibe’s right. Other people look at it like a rubbish truck having convulsions coming up the street. If it makes people smile, I’m rapt!”
Popular urban street drummer Paul Guseli who performs as ‘Lousy with mines’ is a Melbourne institution.
Paul’s energised street performances are created with over 50 pieces of recycled waste – everything from pots, pans, bells, whistles, biscuit tins and plastic bottles provide the tools for his admirable percussion skills, attracting the attention of passers-by with his techno-inspired show.
It all began around five years ago when Guseli was working as a kitchen-hand in his brother’s Carlton restaurant. The sounds of a busy kitchen and the clattering of pots and pans were the inspiration behind what would become a musical institution on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD.
Guseli now operates as a full-time street performer and though he survives well on his takings, he’s certainly had some interesting deposits in his time – “people just scrape everything out of their pockets. I’ve had sim cards, a lot of lint, lacker bands, one earring, lighters, even a fingernail,” he told Corinna Hente of MOJO in 2018.
We filmed ‘Lousy with mines’ on a sunny Sunday afternoon in November on Melbourne’s Swanston Street. This high energy, focused performer did not stop for long enough for us to chat with him, but there was no denying the crazy talent of Paul Guseli.
“My biggest musical inspirations are my teachers in West Africa. I have been very fortunate to be able to travel to Ghana on two occasions to study intensively and learn from Master drummers. There’s something very special about West African music. It’s music with a social purpose; it’s music that connects people to the moment and to each other.”
Bri Slattery – Founder of In The Groove Community Drumming
While wandering the local festivals on the lookout for buskers, Busker What’s Your Story ? came upon this cool community drumming jam at the Albury Wodonga Sustainable Living Festival in November. We asked Bri Slattery, founder of In The Groove, what community drumming is all about.
What’s ‘In The Groove’ all about?
In The Groove was inspired by both my own experience of the transformative power of rhythm, and my observations as a school teacher of how rhythm engaged and empowered my students. We share rhythm-based experiences that address four core social outcomes: education, engagement, community and well-being.
What do you all love most about what you do?
The thing I love most about what I do, is the way in which rhythm has acted as a vehicle for me to make genuine connections with a diverse range of people from all walks of life.
What’s something memorable that’s happened when you’ve been performing?
I believe the most memorable moments don’t occur when you’re performing – rather, they occur when you are sharing the music with others – when you are actively engaged in the music together. That’s when the music truly comes alive.
There’s this amazing synchronicity – a shared, electric energy that can occur when you’re connected to others through rhythm.
Some of my most memorable and rewarding drumming moments have been working with young people, teaching social/emotional skills through our Student Engagement Strategy. It’s amazing to witness how rhythm can teach and empower people through transforming their energy, boosting their motivation and confidence, and enabling them to connect with others.
Who are your musical inspirations?
My biggest musical inspirations are my teachers in West Africa. I have been very fortunate to be able to travel to Ghana on two occasions to study intensively and learn from Master drummers. There’s something very special about West African music.
It’s music with a social purpose; it’s music that connects people to the moment and to each other.
What’s a great piece of advice you’ve been given – and who gave it to you?
“Free your mind.”
This advice came repeatedly from one of my teachers in Ghana. Whenever I reached a block when trying to learn a new rhythm, my teacher would ask me to pause a moment and “free my mind”. I always played better afterwards.
These days, it’s so easy to become stifled by our own inner critic, or by worrying about what others think, or by overthinking the task at hand, or by being consumed with other thoughts whilst trying to execute that task.
Freeing your mind is about being completely in the moment. What I love about drumming, is that it only properly works when you are completely present and engaged in playing the rhythm. It’s also an activity that requires you to be in your body and physically awake as well as mentally alert. Drumming is just a beautiful way to bring yourself back to the moment and experience complete engagement.
Where else do you jam?
In The Groove performs and hosts community jams at a range of local festivals, community events and private functions/parties. Keep an ear out for us!
How do people get involved?
It’s easy to join our In The Groove community.
Keep an eye out for our free community jams around North East Victoria and spontaneously join in the rhythm fun!
If you would like to learn about West African rhythms and how to play the djembe in a fun, social environment, come along to one of our classes. Our community classes occur on a weekly basis in Albury/Wodonga, Beechworth, Wangaratta and Yarrawonga. We also run on-demand workshops – we love bringing the rhythm to new towns and communities.