10th March 2017: Day 50 - The Scariest - Doing It My Way
When I first decided to do this challenge, I put out an appeal for ideas to people I spoke with and on Facebook. At least 3 different people suggested I sing in public but that didn’t seem challenging to me.
You see in my days as a performer I was an actor who could sing, (as opposed to a singer who could act) and ended up singing in every show I was in.
I never did well in West End musical auditions. Not that I did that many of them, but I never got call backs from the ones I did go to. I wasn’t very skilled at those kinds of auditions and tended to get overly nervous.
As time went by and I stopped working as a performer I would be asked if I missed acting and my response was always
‘No, but I really miss the singing.’
Singing for me is like breathing. It’s how I know I’m alive and as I've looked back and reflected on those years as an actor, I can see why I wouldn’t want my singing to be tainted by the judgement that would come from the exposure of playing in the big leagues that is the West End.
When I was much younger, in the days before I even dreamed that my parents would let me go to drama school, I had this fantasy where I would have my regular job and find a seedy dive and sing at night. It had to be a seedy dive, filled with smoke in the atmosphere, the pianist playing with his cigarette hanging out of one side of his mouth, an eye squinting shut because of the smoke and a pint glass, the ones with a handle, sitting on the piano, to hold our tips for the night.
That never happened.
Instead I sing at the odd family occasion. I also sing at church in front of the congregation. And, of course, I sing at home. I’m always singing; in the shower, in the living room, in the kitchen while I’m cooking. I sing along to music and I sing whatever comes to my head.
So when I got those suggestions to sing in public I didn’t think it counted because, like I said, it didn’t feel like that much of a challenge.
I got the idea to get on a train and just burst into song. Sing whatever came to mind and see what happened. And that freaked the hell out of me.
You see I had never sang as me, Taiwo, in front of people I didn’t know. I had never sang in front of people outside of a context of it being appropriate, the people were always a captive audience made up of friends, family, people who wished me well, or members of an audience who paid to be there.
That would definitely not be the case on a train. Last week I was on a train when a couple of guys started singing. They were clearly busking, and the passengers, (including me) wouldn’t look at them or enjoy them, I think, because we knew they were going to ask for money. For that reason I decided not to announce what I was doing before I started to sing, because I wanted to experience their reactions.
And so I was petrified.
And because I was petrified I knew I would have to do it. And that is what I did today. My friend Phyllice and I got on a train, in an almost full carriage and once the train pulled out of the station I began to sing and Phyllice held the camera as we recorded it, live on Facebook. It was interesting. There were a couple of people that looked up and smiled but the majority of people just kept their heads down (like I would have done) instead of just enjoying what was on offer. There was one man in particular, let’s call him ‘Joe’, who sat there with his eyes glued to his kindle and refused to look up. He was directly in front of me.
When I finished the carriage was quiet and people’s heads bowed even lower. You’ll see in the video that I then announce what I'm doing and then, because I’ve told them I don’t want anything from them, I get a round of applause and ‘Joe’ finally looked up and smiled. And I wonder whether we keep our heads down because, although we want to enjoy the experience (when it’s good singing) we just don’t want to pay for it. Or is it that we resent being held hostage. After all, if a busker is standing on a street corner or in the tube station hallway we can always walk on if we want.
This is by far the scariest of the activities I’ve done, because although they were a ‘captive’ audience they weren’t there from choice. But that’s not what made it scary. The fear came from it being me, not Taiwo the performer or Taiwo the coach or Taiwo who is at ease in front of people in the right context, it was Taiwo the 50-something who is doing the final activity of a 50- day challenge with people who don’t know me or care about me. That’s what the fear was about.
But that doesn’t make sense.
What’s the worst they could have done?
Thrown eggs at me I suppose?
50 day challenge done.