Australia calls travelling piano man

00:00, Jan 13 2014
MUSIC MAKER: Busker AJ Hickling with his recycled mobile piano at the Nelson Saturday Market.

There is something really great about busking, says Marahau resident A J Hickling, who uses his piano on wheels to entertain the passing crowds at the Nelson Market on Saturdays.

The classically trained pianist from Christchurch turned down a music scholarship to Otago University "because I just wasn't having much fun with it at that point" and spent years playing and recording drum and other music. He began his have-piano-will-travel career about two years ago when he found a broken-down piano at the Motueka rubbish tip.

"It was out in the rain, half of the hammers didn't work, there were broken strings, it was badly out of tune, all the varnish on the outside was all peeled off and water damaged," he said.

However, it was also repairable and small enough to fit into his old Bedford van.

"I thought since it came from the dump there was no harm in putting some wheels on it and driving it around the country."

The pianist, who describes his compositions as "emotive, romantic Zen music", said he could make as much in one Queenstown busking session last winter as in a full week's orchard work in the Motueka district, and that affirmed his view that "this is actually what I should be doing".

"I have a lot of fun. I love the whole ethos of busking, just playing equally for anyone and everyone, and people can give what they like if they're touched by what you do, and if not they can just wander on past and it's no drama at all."

He said on Saturday that Nelson in summer was "incredible". He busked in Queenstown in winter and "every now and then I'll chuck it all in the van and on the ferry and go up to the North Island and do a little cruise around up there as well".

But he is likely to be missing from both Nelson and Queenstown later this year. "I'm feeling the call of Australia for this coming winter. I don't think I'll take the piano - it might not pass as carry-on."