Time to move on says Guitar­man

South Waikato News - - NEWS / HE PU¯RONGORONGO -

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.

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