“Honk! Street Musicians attempt to Blast Students out of Harvard Bubble”


by Tushar Dwivedi

Through the nooks and crannies of Harvard Square, the echoes of HONK! brought cheer to a subdued, lazy Sunday afternoon. From Reggae themed street music to Edward Jones booths, the fair dominating the small region offered a different delight for everyone. HONK! itself is a self-described movement, with the purpose of combining a diverse flavor of international musical styles with intrinsic themes deriving from the American South. With the stated purpose of “inciting discussion” and “using music to inspire,” Harvard Square was alight with the fervor of passionate musicians and fathers trying to chase down over-excited children.

While the event certainly had a feel of unity, with a diverse range of street food ranging from Indian to American, smattered with Jefe’s posters on most open spaces, and an the incredible flow of Reggae Music, Harvard Square seemed to band together as one…missing just one key population: Harvard Students themselves.

Two minutes of walking around Mass Ave., circling around the Charles Hotel, and looping back around made it painfully obvious that the large majority of attendees were Cambridge residents, or those who had followed the parade from Davis Square beginning Saturday. Without a familiar face to be seen, the Independent attempted to discover why. In a brief survey sent out to a diversified sample of students, ranging from those in the Quad to Swing Housing, the questions were of the following structure:

First, students were simply asked: “Did you pass through Harvard Square on Sunday?” with the follow up question being, “Have you heard of HONK!?” Finally, students were asked: “Have you been to any events in Harvard Square as of this year, or know of any upcoming events?”

The response set was overwhelmingly homogeneous with respect to all three questions. A simple “No” was the most popular response to the first question, with a couple students elaborating with explanations such as, “I didn’t eat out that day” or “I didn’t have to go across the River.” The second and third questions received short and simple “No’s” as well, demonstrating a general lack of awareness of Harvard Square initiatives. While the “Cambridge Bubble” or the “Harvard Bubble” may be a significant issue, it’s somewhat shocking to see even within campus, how small that bubble really is. From Chocolate Tours to Artist Takeovers (both upcoming in late October and November), Harvard’s campus presents a rich and diverse set of interesting opportunities, and a chance to mingle with a set of individuals who are neither Harvard students nor tourists.

The full duration of HONK!, however, makes it one of the more unique events to occur on Harvard’s campus without having any affiliation to the school itself. Featuring over 500 musicians over the course of Thursday, October 4th – Sunday October 7th, the celebration accompanying the performances are not to be missed. With free admission, on Friday, October 5th the HONK! kickoff showcase at Aeronaut Brewing Company was held, directly following the lantern parade. The rest of the night was filled with a kickoff party in Bow Market; Saturday, however, was amongst the noisiest and boisterous of days, with over 20 brass bands taking over Davis Square for nearly 8 hours. Interspersed within the afternoon was the opportunity to engage directly with HONK!’s activism foundation by creating a protest poster or marching with peers. The concluding rest of the show was Friday, Harvard Square’s big showcase, with an energy even the impending downpour could not diminish.

Harvard’s campus, while extending into campus, is already one that encourages clustering, whether it be in the river, yard, or in a specific house. Given the fact that it was so easy to miss some a tremendous celebration right underneath student noses, however, a little more awareness regarding nearby events could go a long way.

Tushar Dwivedi ‘20 (tushar_dwivedi@college.harvard.edu) is looking forward to the next installment of HONK!