Alice Phoebe Lou is a high-spirited and fiercely independent character whose rise to success is inspired by fairy tales. Wanting to travel the world, the youngster packed her bags at age 19 and set off to Europe in search of adventure and a date with destiny.
A small-town girl from Kommetje, South Africa, the world was her oyster. Having dabbled in music during high school, Lou used her musical knowledge as a means to make ends meet. She took to the streets of Amsterdam and Berlin with the objective of funding her travels and became a local favourite, drawing increasing numbers of listeners who’d come to see her play in U-Bahn stations and on street corners.
She says: “The realisation only hit me when I had been playing on the street for a while. It started as a means to an end, but once the ball was rolling there was a crazy momentum that seemed to propel things in a special direction. It became my passion and my life began to revolve around music.”
After less than a year in the city, she’d become a fixture on Berlin’s vibrant streets, followed by a life-changing appearance on TEDx Berlin. The world had taken notice and her online profile soared.
The local starlet has since gone on to perform on some of the world’s biggest and most prestigious stages, but still sees herself as a street musician.
“Street music is where my real musical journey began,” she explains.
“Everything I have learnt, all the special encounters, the touching comments from people, made me realise how special street music is. It brings hope to where it’s needed most: on the sometimes harsh environment of the street, to people who need some relief or inspiration. For me, the kind of connections I share with people – without the clear barrier of audience and performer – are special.
“These days I have a great amplifier with clear sound, I play to crowds of up to 200 people and I sell my CDs and make a living from it. I am not just a musician, I am a street musician and I love it.”
As a street musician, do people treat her with respect?
She says: “Often people think they need to feel sorry for me – or they say things like: ‘I really hope you become successful one day.’ I feel the idea of success is a bit warped. To me, success is about being happy and fulfilled in what you are doing and being self-sufficient.
“I feel successful and I am able to maintain my freedom. So yes, sometimes people treat me with less respect because of their preconceived ideas of street music, but more o en people admire my approach, especially when they hear my story and motivations. I think they are impressed I do things the way I want and are appreciative of my fresh outlook.”