Busker's reward is smiles and thanks

Busker leaving Wellington after 15 years

HANNAH MCKEE
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013
busker
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

MOVING ON: Thomas Houpapa is leaving Wellington after 15 years of putting smiles on faces at Wellington Railway Station.

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Mornings at Wellington Railway Station will not be as bright without Thomas Houpapa, a cheerful busker who is leaving Wellington after 15 years.

The musician, best known for his harmonica and guitar playing, could be considered a jack of all trades. Since coming to Wellington when he was 12, he has sold The Evening Post, worked in construction, at a freezing works, painted the flagpoles on top of the Beehive and owned the cleaning company Busy Bee Cleaners.

He is heading back to his hometown of Taumarunui tomorrow to care for his elderly mother, who recently had surgery. The town is where his interest in music began, he says.

"I used to do Bible class, then joined up with choirs and the Patea Maori Club before they went to America and their E made them famous."

The best thing about his time busking in Wellington has been the smiles and the thank-you's, he says. "Especially playing in the morning when the workers are coming through. I spot some people a long way off and then a smile appears on their face.

"I feel great that I'm doing something to please people."

He busks every morning, between five and seven days a week, and it is his main source of income.

He says Wellington is a good city for buskers. "You go up to Auckland and everyone is just rushing past you, although I made $700 at the Otara markets once, that was a good day."

The Lower Hutt resident says he has made many friends while busking in Wellington, but he has not enjoyed dealing with "haters".

"There are a few people who don't want me to be out there or want me to 'get a job', but I tell them I sell CDs and make music every day, I do have a job."

His music means more to him than just making money. "A few years ago my wife died of cancer. I had no way of grieving so I picked up the guitar and played the blues and that helped me through."

When he's not busy busking, he writes songs, practises playing his guitar and records his CDs, which he is looking to sell online when he leaves Wellington.

"I'm going to miss Wellington, I love this place, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but family comes first.

"I'd like to thank everyone that donated through the years, and the people who have helped me."

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- The Dominion Post

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