On a bustling, sunny weekend in early autumn, the sights and sounds at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston are always vibrant and welcoming to a diverse, international audience and people from various walks of life. They come to shop, eat or simply take an afternoon walk through the cobblestone streets and falling colorful leaves with their families. Appropriately, Faneuil Hall also plays home to the street musician group Tatu Mianzi. A string trio consisting of Susan Reed on violin accompanied by her daughters Kate, 17, on cello and Allie, 15, on violin plays an eclectic mix of music ranging from old Gypsy tunes to traditional fiddle songs to beatboxing. Swahili for “Three Reeds,” their robust, international flavors of sound undeniably mirror the audience passing through.
As a classically trained, professional violinist, Susan has spent her whole life with a fiddle in hand and now uses her music to tell stories at schools and community centers locally as well as internationally in Arusha, Tanzania and Costa Rica earlier this summer. Kate and Allie both started playing instruments at a young age and are now members of their high school orchestra and joined their mom abroad this summer for performances.
Performing for the first time five years ago at Susan’s brother’s wedding, the trio eventually decided to take their sound public on 2012 in the popular busking area of Harvard Square, thanks to Allie’s suggestion for some summer fun. And it certainly has been fun. They’ve received a $100 bill in their case. They watched their crowd jump six feet back before pigeons flew over and did exactly what would make a crowd jump six feet back. Allie got proposed to.
Playing such a diverse range of music 100 percent from memory allows for them to engage and contribute to the energy of the crowd, which Allie and Kate believe is a vitally important factor that distinguishes busking from performing in a concert venue. Attracting a gathering is one thing, but keeping their attention is another challenge. Unfortunately, they learned from experience that there are some songs that will clear the crowd. Other songs, like the Greek folk song Miserlou (yes, the same song as Dick Dale’s surf rock version made famous by Pulp Fiction and later used as an instrumental for The Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Pump It’), tend to get everyone excited, riled up and ready for whatever the spirited trio has to offer next. While performing, the Reeds enjoy the vibes they are able to create by grooving to their own sound, stomping their feet and communicating with the crowd, which makes the crowd much more comfortable with reciprocating energy by cheering and dancing along.
Certain tunes tend to extract certain people out of the crowd, too. Metalheads tend to step forward and get a little head bob going when the Reeds cover Metallica. Middle Easterners emerge when they play their culture songs. Even traditional Gypsy tunes extract certain people from the crowd. The Reeds appreciate this type of praise of their diverse song choice. This diversity is the type of unique experience that Susan and her daughters think busking reveals to artists.
Above all, it is joyous for them to see the happiness they bring to an eclectic audience with their eclectic song selection.