Busking in all his glory

Despite having a degree, Lai Zi Jie would rather remain on the streets.

Mark Ong

Published: 15 May 2017, 6:32 PM

For most people, the road after obtaining a degree is clear cut. Start applying for jobs, sit for dozens of interviews and hopefully find yourself an employer.

But Lai Zi Jie (aka The Pudgy Busker) is not like most people. Despite having a degree, this 25-year-old has decided to make busking his full-time job.

“I am definitely not an eight to five person,” Zi Jie said when asked why he chose busking over a regular job, “busking is just something I love doing and is simply an avenue for me to carry on music.”

His passion for performing has gotten him featured on numerous platforms, including Scoot’s inflight magazine, radio stations Kiss92 and Power 98FM, and Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao. He even sang for an Oreo commercial once!

A Lianhe Zaobao article featuring Zi Jie. Photo Credit: Zi Jie

Zi Jie’s musical journey began in secondary school.

“I started playing in my school chapel’s band as a drummer, and since then I took drumming very seriously, getting teachers to coach me, effectively kick-starting my musical journey,” he said.

Wanting to gain more exposure, the Pudgy Busker applied for his first busking license under the National Arts Council in 2015, whilst he was still enrolled in Nanyang Technological University.

Zi Jie drumming his heart out for a school event in 2015. Photo Credit: Zi Jie

At the time, Zi Jie would hurry himself after classes to set up shop along the streets of Orchard Road. Singing was a way for him to de-stress and find some time alone amidst the crowd.

And it wasn’t long before his talent was noticed.

One week into his first public appearance, Zi Jie was already being asked to play at private functions. He recalled: “After I got this privilege to play at events and weddings, I started taking busking more seriously and saw it as more than just a hobby.”

Nowadays, Zi Jie receives about two to three bookings a month to play at private events, and business usually picks up during July.

He considers it a good day if he earns over $100. Photo Credit: Youth.sg/Mark Ong

Busking is not all a bed of roses; singing for three to four hours under the sweltering heat and humidity is tough work.

“The weather is one of the biggest obstacles. The unpredictable nature of Singapore’s weather makes it hard,” Zi Jie said, even as the sound of distant thunder rumbled overhead.

He continued: “Buskers are like farmers; we rely on the weather a lot…and if I catch a flu it will affect my singing, then I have to take a break as well.”

Jinx! Zi Jie hurriedly covers his equipment as it starts raining on his parade. Photo Credit: Youth.sg/Mark Ong

Most recently, Zi Jie released his own single on Spotify called ‘Neverland‘ which he is incredibly proud of.

When asked what his future plans are, the Pudgy Busker gives a simple answer: “Keep busking, keep writing more songs, and hope to inspire more and more people.”


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