Who is That [Not] Masked Man?

The Dutch love their boats. The second the temperature rises above 20 C, they flock to the nearest canal and wile away their free time aimlessly floating about while drinking wine, starring into space and/or waving to the poor, boat-less chumps on the sidewalk as their dog stands, proud, along the starboard bow. It’s not uncommon to see fifteen college students packed into a craft meant for six people or families spanning three or four generations taking to the waterways on sunny days.

Among them is the owner and operator of the Muziek Boot (“Music Boat). My girlfriend and I came across him last night while carrying an IKEA cabinet back to our apartment. This mysterious muscian  pulled up alongside a group of people celebrating a woman’s 80th birthday in one of the parks here in Leiden. After regaling them with a few tunes and a blast on his trusty conch shell, he broke out a clog attached to a fishing pole and collected donations from the two small crowds that had gathered on opposite sides of the canal.

But who is this guy?

A quick Google search revealed that his name is Reinier Sijpkens. He’s entertained crowds around the Netherlands since the early ’90s but mostly sticks to Amsterdam these days, performing live gigs on both land and sea. His small boat, which bears a colorful mural along the exterior, is packed with musical instruments including a small organ, trumpets and bells.  Sijpken’s official website offers a link to his music on iTunes, which is a hypnotic blend that combines the vibe of a Depression-era carnival sideshow with the cheerful, bohemian spirit of the Merry Pranksters. All in all, Sijpkens and the Muziek Boot help make Holland a weirder and more wonderful place to live.

Unfortunately, his performance last night was interrupted by another common sight on the country’s canals: belligerent drunks. Three 40-something “bros” on an expensive boat, who we had spotted urinating into the water while yelling at passing cyclists earlier in the evening, floated over and started shouting out requests. Sijpken tried to ignore them as they yelled football chants, refused to move along and, overall, annoyed everyone within 200 yards.  I’m sure he’s used to this sort of thing though. At one point, he stopped the show, turned to them, yelled “AHOY!” and resumed his song. That, somehow, almost as if by magic, shut them up.

A total class act.

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