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Wednesday, 16 January 2019 09:51 pm

Sam says: don’t get down with a frown in Newtown

SAM Neho doesn’t like frowns.

“If you can’t bring a smile, don’t bring a frown down here,” says the Newtown busker, who can be seen most days performing outside the suburb’s New World supermarket in Riddiford St.

Sam’s main goal is to make people smile, and he labels his tunes “freestyles for free smiles”.

“Some people are really tight-ass with their smiles,” he says. “The irony is that smiles are free.”

He has been busking for 27 years and has performed all around town, but he enjoys performing in Newtown the most: “I used to busk about the place, but I prefer here.”

His philosophy is live to busk, not busk to live. “The money only supplements what I wanna do.”

There is a hint of protest in the songs he plays, and the way he plays them, often mixing popular songs with korero Maori.

“You don’t need to be able to speak Maori to understand what’s being said.”

When asked if people ever voice their annoyance at his Mana Party display, he smiles: “If they do, they don’t say anything.”

Problems with the New World supermarket near where he plays have been an issue for Sam in the past. He says they used to hassle him, saying he was trespassing.

But things have changed.  “They have improved. I think I have improved too – with my attitude.”

In the past he has frequently been asked to produce his busker’s licence, but not so much nowadays,

“I’ve found a hole in the system – I display the Mana Maori flag and I’m political, then they don’t wanna know about me.”

An example of his quick wit and affable nature can be seen in the following exchange that occurred just before our interview came to an end.

Passerby: “I’ve never seen you in a hoodie before, ever.”

Sam: “Time for a change.”

Passerby: “Needs a wash.”

Sam: “Are you offering?”

This was followed by Sam’s trademark hearty laugh, and then a rendition of Just Add Water, a reference to the current debate on water ownership.

Midway through the song he stops to ask, and answer, the question “Who owns the water in the supermarket?” To which he replies: “The supermarket. How can they own that? Hmmmm…”

When asked about his largest tip, he says he once got $100 from a local businessman on Courtenay Place.

After thinking about this for a while, he says: “Anyone from a little girl that puts in five cents, to someone who puts in 20 (dollars), I thank them equally, cos without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”

Smiles are Sam’s currency.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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