The Migrant Musicians

Lucinda Palme

The Migrant Musicians

The Gothenburgian sky is adorned with all the greyness among the skies. To that unasked greyness, there are musicians adding music to the air as residents walked past in and around Central Station. There is a certainty that the sky will soon shower some rays of autumnal sunlight but to be free from the music of the saxophone produced by those musicians, unasked, there seems no escape to all those walkers but who ought to hear that creative sound.

The luckiest are those who can snatch few minutes and sit on one of those benches and savour the very essence of existence for the lifespan of human beings is limited. But the luckiest who snatched the time to sit and savour the existence, the musicians added sounds unless the luckiest is lucky enough to be deaf and without the hearing-aid.

‘There goes the selfish fellow,” says Xigani noticing Mechkari getting off from a tram and about to walk past them.

Taking the saxophone off his mouth, Meipeilomas adds, ‘He looks satisfied.’

‘Going to forage in the woods,’ guesses Djotti. ‘He knows where to find food and money.’

Sitting next to Xigani, Meipeilomas and Djotti is Gleekeeriay but she sat on another bench beside their bench. She says, ‘Unlike us, he knows where to find what we all want.’

A big music case lay in front of four of them, opened up neatly and lying on the footpath, for the droppings of charity from the walkers for their musical creation. The cents and kroners in the case are those dropped by Gleekeeriay as an enticement for others to show their appreciation for what they are doing for the benefit of the ears of Gothenburgers.

Mechkari is satisfied for the day though ‘the remains of the day’ are left and long time to go for the day to end. He has experimented with a melody with his harmonica which he called it to himself as the office-going raga. For weeks, he fought against himself to create that melody. The success of the melody is reflected with the droppings in to his basket from the walkers at Kungsportsplatsen. What he expects to earn in a day he started to earn in three hours: 7am-10am.

If Mechkari is an inconsiderate man, he would have walked past them with air of ignorance or with the pretence of being occupied, mentally. For they all come from the same country and they are all in Gothenburg for the seasonal visit, he stops by them. He stands at a distance: seven feet away from the music case in order to not obstruct the passers-by and hoping they would show their appreciation to his fellow migrants and fellow musicians. He looks at Meipeilomas who has his saxophone in his mouth, and smiles to himself and at them.

Xigani says to Mechkari, loudly, ‘He is better than you.’

Mechkari glances at the music case of his fellow musicians to assess their earnings, and shifts his glance at them. He is revolted but suppresses his revulsion towards them. He reckons, for a reasonably disciplined migrant musician, what one can earn in a year one can earn in one season in Sweden.

Swedes are rarely magnanimous with their money, but their miserliness melts away when their hearts are touched.

The way his fellow country folk sat, Mechkari deduces they have no respect for themselves and not showing respect for music and to the audience of their music. As he fleetingly inferred, a pigeon hoots past him, but drops a dropping from its rectum on his shoulders. He looks up, follows the direction of the bird, as it flies and takes its perch on one of the three arty monkeys sitting on the tall poles.

If he goes closer to his folk, Mechkari can smell them. He could hear the inebriated sound coming out from Meipeilomas’ saxophone like farts out of constipation.

Mechkari agrees to Xigani, Meipeilomas is better than Mechkari, but says, ‘Birds are dropping by.’

Xigani shouts, ‘Where you go?’

‘Going home.’


‘Going home.’

‘So early,’ Xigani says, surprised. And stresses, ‘Home?’

‘Taking the train.’

‘Earned enough?’

‘Yes,’ Mechkari says, and adds out of concern for them, ‘You all sit properly.’

Xigani lowers his head, to know what is wrong with him,  Djotti and Gleekeeriay bring their legs closer to re-position their clothed groins, and Meipeilomas gets up with his saxophone still in his mouth. Feeling the cacophony and the clatter of the trams, Mechkari walks away from them lest his basic mannerisms and audible music would be affected.

—Lucinda Palme