Busking through Malaysia was a genuinely amazing experience. Though most days we found it tough to earn any real profit playing on the streets. Playing music for accommodation and eating cheap we managed to travel all over the country for months breaking even on costs. We faced a few barriers being foreign buskers but locals gave us nothing but support on our journey offering busking spots, gigs, beds, and smiles. Beginning in Singapore we busked our way through Johor Bahru, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Langkawi always playing tunes for a spot to sleep. We opened the case and played anywhere possible on the side to earn cash including hostel rooftops, open mics, paid gigs, markets, parties, and of course the streets. We found Penang to be the most lucrative in terms of no restrictions for foreigners, busy streets, markets, and live music venues. We’ll continue adding information below including ‘play to stay’ hostels and hopefully this guide helps you start a musical journey though Malaysia full of crazy experiences and busking opportunities we never would have dreamt of.
Permit InfoThe only area we ran into trouble with busking restrictions was the heart of Kuala Lumpur. After busking only one song at busy Central Market in Chinatown we were stopped and told to acquire a busking permit to continue , impossible being foreigners. We still hit some nearby streets around Chinatown Market, Bukit Bintang, and opened the case at a few open mics but we found it hard to find a rhythm. While in KL we ended up focusing on our weekend gigs at ‘Birdnest’ hostel in Chinatown, turning them into massive acoustic jam nights inviting backpackers and couchsurfers from all over town; which ended up being much more rewarding then slogging it on the streets in monsoon season anyway. The rest of Malaysia including Malacca, Johor Bahru, Penang, we ran into no problems and played all over town.
Play to Stay Birdnest Guesthouse http://birdnestghouse.com/ This guesthouse become our second home in Malaysia, we stayed here for a couple of months playing music on the rooftop every weekend to guests. Definitely one of the biggest highlights of our trip was running weekly events with beerpong, slackline, darts, open mics, and partying with backpackers from all over the world. Willie the owner is and absolute legend email - [email protected] if you can help out the hostel for a bed.
Busking Bukit Bintang the entertainment and shopping district of Kuala Lumpur has the heaviest foot traffic and preferred busking positions. When told to move on from the Pavilion Shopping Centre for not having a permit we played on the corner of 'Jalan Sultan and Jalan Berangan' during some of our days. During the night you want to find yourself a spot on 'Changkat Bukit Bintang' and play to the hundreds of tourists moving between bars.
Uptown Puchong Night Bazaar Buskers are welcome to open the case at Puchong Night Bazaar which runs 7pm - 3am everyday. https://www.facebook.com/pg/Uptownpuchong [email protected] Facebook Pages Kuala Lumpur Musicians https://www.facebook.com/kl.musicians Musicians and their venues https://www.facebook.com/CharlJoe54?fref=ts Musicians Available https://www.facebook.com/groups/musiciansavailable/ Jam Sessions - Various Venues https://www.facebook.com/jamsessions54cjoe/timeline Malaysian Busking Club https://www.facebook.com/malaysianbuskersclub/
Cheap Food Vinni Jeyaa Banana Leaf Curry House https://www.facebook.com/pages/Restoren-Vinnie-Jeya 80, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 50000 Kuala Lumpur We ate here everyday while living in Kuala Lumpur, if you stick to the vegetable buffet you can fill a plate for around 5 ringgit. So cheap and bloody delicious! Located on the same street as our hostel Birdnest. Shield Stallion https://www.facebook.com/shieldstallion/ Shield Stallion located in The Strand, Demansara hosts a variety of live music events and were very kind supporting our travels and inviting us to play. They rent out jamming studios and have a really cute kitten!
Busking Occupy Beach Street https://www.facebook.com/occupybeachstreet This market takes over Beach Street every Sunday and is a must for buskers passing through town. Make sure to contact the organisers and book yourself a spot. Armenian Street https://www.facebook.com/armeniansgt Armenian street is a great place to busk containing cafes, eateries, and Penang's most famous mural. The street is a venue for a weekly Armenian street fair every Saturday.
Play to Stay Seawind Beach Cafe https://www.facebook.com/pages/Seawind-Beach-Cafe Try to get in contact with Sunny at Seawind. We played a few sets over new years in return for accommodation, food, and beer. Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel https://www.facebook.com/RyokanMuntriSt/?fref=ts Subject to availability but we stayed at the Ryokan for a few nights in return for playing to the guests. Great clean place with a good buffet breakfast! Email: [email protected]
Kim Haus https://www.facebook.com/kimhausopenmic For would be singer-songwriters, musicians and the like, join them for their weekly open mic night, every Saturday from 9pm onwards!
Play to Stay Ringo's Foyer http://www.ringosfoyer.com/ https://www.facebook.com/ringosfoyer Howard the owner at Ringo’s Foyer is one of the nicest guys we met traveling Malaysia. He showed us busking spots, gave guests bicycle tours of town, and introduced us to cafes in town leading to more music opportunities.
Busking Cnr Jalan Merdeka / Jalan Hang Jebat The Red Square pictured above is a great spot to open the case with lots of tourist traffic. There are regular buskers performing in the area, but we found no problem talking to them and swapping around. Jonker Street Night Market Friday - Sunday nights traffic is closed and Jonker Street is turned into a massive market chockas full locals, tourists, and culture. It can difficult to find a busking spot as stalls take up most of the street, the statue of 'Dr Gan Boon Leong' in a little garden midway through Jonker is the best spot.
Calanthe Art Cafe https://www.facebook.com/calanthe.melaka Owners at this cafe let us busk on their outside deck during the night markets, we became friends and busked here regularly before leaving Malacca. Great Laksa! Cheap Food Selma Banana Leaf Restaurant https://www.facebook.com/selvamrestaurant/?fref=ts No 2 Jalan Temenggong, 75000 Melaka Cheap authentic south Indian food. Life with curry is life without worry.
Busking Kilang Bateri http://www.tourism.johor.my/tours/kilang-bateri/ Once an actual operating battery factory it has been opened to a plethora of food and clothing outlets. Running daily 12:00pm 12:00am. Talk to owner of 'Full Tank’ Bard, great spot to play music!
Live Music Venues Magnums Sports Cafe https://www.facebook.com/magnumsportscafe Puteri Harbour, Johor Bahru We ended up playing at Magnums Sports Cafe for two weekends in a row, the cash paid for travels north and staff took care of us with drinks/food. For gigs like this the Roland BA-330 really helped with sound. Sea & Saw https://www.facebook.com/seaandsaw/?fref=ts We ran out of time in Johor Bahru to play here but we'd recommend emailing the venue and let us know how it goes!
Play 2 Stay Roof Talk http://www.rooftalkhostel.com.my/ https://www.facebook.com/rooftalkhostel Really nice clean hostel and the owners were legends. They have a big rooftop which we played music on to guests in return for some accommodation. Things to Do JB Arts Festival (September - October) http://jbartsfest.com/ https://www.facebook.com/jbartsfestival