Sitting with Garv Bomjan, an experimental guitarist and native of Nepal, on the outbound Red Line tracks of Harvard Station was a new experience for me. It was the first time I had the chance to actually sit with a musician while he busked, observing his process and interactions with the audience for an extended period of time. The crowd’s reaction toward him clearly justified just how talented and unique he is.
As Bomjan elegantly plucked and strummed away, his fingers rapidly dancing up and down the neck of his fragile, story-filled guitar, listeners stood at afar observing him, trying to comprehend the exotic but undoubtedly familiar sound that playfully resonated through the station. As commuters awaited their train, they stood at a distance from Bomjan, reverently allowing his sound to develop and giving it the space it needed to flourish for their enjoyment, while also seeming slightly fearful of the transformative power it possesses. But that is what his music does. It ropes you away from reality. It allows you to feel comfortable with briefly getting lost. It seduces you.
One listener stood at a distance and removed one of his white iPhone earbuds. A few seconds later the other bud dropped into his hand. He stood there frozen, like a statue, as did others around him, mystified. Two young college students sat next to us when one lightly tapped the other on the thigh mid-sentence, shushing him and nodding his head toward Bomjan. Numerous people missed their train to stay an extra five minutes to hear one more song. A young woman politely asked to take a photo of his sign with his name and information on it, praising him for his talent. He let her, thanking her for her compliments as a slight grin crept across his face. I didn’t even need to ask what a day in the life as a busker was like for Bomjan – I had the good fortune of witnessing it firsthand.
Spirituality plays a vital role in Bomjan’s music and creative outlook, as he believes he does not actually create the music he plays. Rather, he was given a gift to let go and allowing a product to come out, using him as the medium. Listeners help him feel energized, complementing his creative process. “It really is a pure gift to have,” he told me, “I am lucky. I sometimes wonder where it comes from.” His main influences stem from the Eastern Classical and Raga genres.
One of the factors that helps Bomjan stand out while busking is his incredible use of looper pedals, allowing him to create a backing track over which he can then add other guitar progressions and melodies, as well as a lot of improvisation, depending on the vibes he picks up from his audience and surroundings. The listeners help his music grow.
Bomjan is actually quite shy – a man of very few words. He is working on interacting with the crowd as he plays as most buskers do. But fortunately for him in the meantime, his music speaks loud enough for him.