Time to move on says Guitarman
Most know him as ‘‘Guitarman’’, the face of Tokoroa’s busking scene, and now he has said goodbye.
It takes guts to sing to on the streest, and beneficiary Powell Karena, 62, did for eight years. The giggly, cheery-faced man, with a few missing teeth, would often be spotted in locations across the small South Waikato town.
You’d hear the likes of Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and his favourites, Jimi Hendricks and Bob Marley, as you entered a bakery or store.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Karena said his renditions were ‘‘perfect’’. He learned how to play guitar when he was 14 in his home town of Te Kuiti. His brother-in-law taught him since the school didn’t allow him to learn music, Karena said.
The first song he learned was Tom Jones’s Green Green Grass of Home, which he continued to belt out until he left for Hamilton on Saturday.
It was probably one of his most popular renditions as people often sang along and dropped a few dollars in his helmet collection basket, he said.
‘‘A man said to me, I’ve waited years to hear this song.’’
Buskers had come and gone from Leith Place but Karena said no-one trumped him and his ‘‘beautiful voice’’. Almost every day he would sing between fish and chip shop East and West and local bar Spirit’d. But his music, played on a yel- low, faded, second-hand Sierra guitar, with a tattered brown piece of string as a strap, could be heard from the other end of the street.
‘‘Occasionally I would sing at the Farmers Market, but not so much anymore.’’
Any time off would likely be a Monday or Tuesday, he said.
The music would flow for about two hours a day, sometimes more to achieve his $20 target. Yet it would draw in the shoppers and bring ‘‘thousands’’ of dollars to local business owners, he said.
That won’t be the case any more as he returns to Hamilton to be closer to the hospital for his ‘‘lady friend’’.
To the town of Tokoroa that’s been so good him, it’s a sad farewell.
‘‘I like the people that like my music and I like people who don’t like my music.
‘‘I’ll miss the friendly people . . . [but] I think they’ll miss me more.’’
One of those is Kiwi Takeaways worker Ken Ezhou who would often hear Karena’s voice above the sound of the fryers.
Karena was a regular customer for Ezhou and he would serve him the usual packet of hot chips. ‘‘He’s a good man, he’s friendly.’’ And as for his music, well that was another story and truly hard to describe, he said.
‘‘He’s different to most singers.’’
Tokoroa icon Powell Karena has said goodbye to the town after busking for eight years.