When Wuilly Arteaga was younger, he frequented his local cybercafé to learn how to play music. The cafe owner made a deal with him; he would donate money to Arteaga if he helped in the business. Arteaga then used this money to buy a cheap violin, and the café owner helped pay for half of it. His parents, however, forbade him to play the violin and taught him the importance of religion. At 15, Arteaga decides to leave home and practice his music in the street. “Since then, my music school has always been outdoors,” he said.
Arteaga continued to perform in Venezuela’s most difficult times. In 2017, he armed himself only with his instruments and his country’s colors and played on the front lines of anti-government protests. The National Guard shot him with rubber bullets, threw tear gas at him and destroyed his violin. Arteaga was forcibly sent to a military prison and tortured, with only the hope of playing again to keep him alive. Once released, he left the country for New York.
Moving to Manhattan was daunting at first. Arteaga was “afraid of being insignificant in a city of so much talent and so many cultures”, but he found himself at ease thanks to the subway, other musicians and having his violin by his side. One of his favorite places to perform in the city is Times Square. “There, it’s as if I were playing at Madison Square Garden. People are shouting, clapping and dancing as if they were at a concert. They make me feel like a star,” he explained.
The energy and joy of his performances as a New York busker was immortalized in 2018 by a social media influencer who goes by the name of Junebug. As Arteaga performed a hip-hop song in Time Square, Junebug and others joined in the fun with just about every dance they could, from fast footwork to the Carlton. The video was tweeted with the caption “When New Yorkers hear a violin”, and it received over 320,000 likes and 120,000 retweets.
Now the video is recirculating on Reddit with lots of praise and a few raised eyebrows. The serendipity of the video seems clearly staged; the group of passers-by act as if they just discovered Arteaga on the street, even though they entered the frame seconds after the video started. Reddit users were quick to point this out, and some even wonder if Arteaga plays the violin.
While some doubted, others came to Arteaga’s defense, calling him a violinist in the video and saying, “I don’t know if he’s faking it here, but he really can play.” One person responded to the review, saying, “It’s good to have fun and enjoy something once in a while.”
Whether Arteaga stars in the video or not, his talent is indisputable. Others captured her prowess with the string instrument, like this video of her rendition of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules.” The contagious energy of Arteaga being able to “play with complete freedom” is also undeniable. Due to his work in Venezuela and the United States, Arteaga has continued to speak at events such as the Foundation for Economic Education’s FEEcon and the Human Rights Foundation’s Oslo Freedom Forum.
“Just as the streets of Venezuela were my school of music, the streets of New York were my school of freedom,” he shared. “Here, day by day, I learn its true meaning.”
Self-taught, Venezuelan violinist Wuilly Arteaga has been busking since the age of 15 and peacefully performed on the front lines of Venezuela’s 2017 anti-government protests.
Arteaga went to jail for playing during the protests. Once released, he moved to New York and quickly became a popular busker in tourist spots like Times Square. In 2018, social media influencer Junebug posted a video capturing the energy and happiness that comes from Arteaga’s music.
When New Yorkers hear a violin 🤣🔥🎻 pic.twitter.com/HEjW3D3pge
— Junebug (@juneelite) August 4, 2018
Years after going viral on Twitter, the video has resurfaced on Reddit to much praise.
His talent is undeniable.
“Just as the streets of Venezuela were my school of music, the streets of New York have been my school of freedom. Here, day by day, I learn its true meaning,” he says.
h/t: [Washington Post]
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