“I gotta wait twenty-one more minutes,” says Paddy Hanna, checking the time on his phone. The Belfast-born street percussion artist has been temporarily silenced, after setting up shop earlier today on Austurstræti, across from Hressó. As it turns out, his spot was also in the line of fire of a local businessman’s wrath. “There’s a guy from these buildings who’s saying I was driving the twenty people working on the floor crazy,” Paddy continues. “He was very quick to let me know he could call the police.”
The man in question requested Paddy stop until after five o’clock, or he would alert the authorities. Two passing traffic wardens saw their interaction, and enquired as to the nature of the discussion. They assured Paddy he was well within his rights to remain and play, and the police couldn’t move him on. Nevertheless, Paddy chose to wait. “I don’t want to cause any aggravation,” he laments, with a shrug. “Some people just don’t have any humour.”
A passion for percussion
Paddy’s made a living off his percussion busking for the past three years, traveling with his trade for the past two. He’s seen fifteen different cities in two years. There’s no real method to where he ends up—sometimes a two-week stint turns into a year-long residence, as was the case in Berlin. “I’m chancing my arm and hoping for the best a lot of the time,” he says.
A self-taught musician, Paddy first played the bodhran, a traditional Irish drum, as a young child. When he decided to turn his passion into a career, the decision was met with kind-hearted laughter from his mother. He’d been banging on pots and pans with wooden spoons since the age of three, so she was less than baffled by his choice. Since then, he’s moved on to a ramshackle DIY kit of buckets, cymbals, and bells strapped to his right ankle.
The gentleman drummer
Paddy says he recognizes certain individuals may not have the same fondness for his music as others. “If people come up to me with a bit of decorum and manners, then no problem,” he sighs. “But if someone comes up to me with an attitude, I find it hard to be cordial.” Which is why he, as well as his audience and passersby, were taken aback by the immediate threat of police being summoned.
“You’re always going to find someone who’s just not happy with something in their lives,” Paddy says, “and just wants to take it out on someone. And I guess I’m an easy target for that.”
But for the vast majority of time, Paddy has been met only with positivity. And in a nation witnessing an unprecedented tourist influx, it’s nice to see a genuinely optimistic visitor attempting to contribute his talent to the city’s street life.