A Conversation Between A Violinist and A Muslim 

On my way back from Luton yesterday, I met this man: Dmitri van Zwanenberg, also known as the Yellow Violin Busker. 

It’s a common sight, buskers occupying a small corner in the London underground. They inject some much needed life into its grey corridors. I usually walk past, but the music from Dmitri’s violin was so arresting, I had to stand still and soak it all in.

I stood there transfixed for a few minutes listening to him play as Londoners hurtled to and fro on their daily commute, a living breathing manifestation of the “rat race”. Eventually, I couldn’t resist the urge to talk to him when he finished. 

It’s often the case that you will strike up the most profound conversation not just with personal acquaintances, but with complete strangers as well. And that’s just what happened with Dmitri. Our shared appreciation for music prompted a 30 minute discussion on the arts, religion and politics.

You’ve probably noticed the fluorescent yellow colour of his violin. Dmitri used car paint to cover the violin in order to prevent the wood from expanding and contracting with the unpredictable change in British weather, not to mention it goes fabulously well with his Hawaiian shirt. 

When I asked about his name, he told me how his mother named him after the character Dmitri in a book by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky called “Brothers Karamazov”. He wasn’t sure what to make of it since the fictional Dmitri was a bit of a crazy chap, to which I replied you need a bit of crazy in you to survive the world these days, so maybe she made a wise choice. 

We finally got onto the topic of faith. As an atheist, he felt religion was to blame for much of the suffering and divisiveness that exists in the world today. Instead of waging wars to settle disputes, Dmitiri commented on how he would love to see world leaders battle out their differences in a game of chess or better yet, a dance contest. We both chuckled slightly when I mused on how comical it would be to see Vladimir Putin break out into dance in a showdown against the King of Saudi Arabia. David Cameron didn’t even get a mention. The sight of him dancing was an abomination to our senses I think. Funny how such deep questions were probed in such a chaotic environment. 

When you think of a conversation between an atheist and a Muslim, there is assumedly a lot to point out which might divide us. One of us believes in a higher power, whilst the other doesn’t. 

But when you think of our conversation not as one between two people of opposing religious views but between two human beings instead, what’s there not to find common ground in?

In the end, his overall message was as profound as his music: Drop your labels, drop your petty differences, and embrace the fact that above all else, we are human beings before we are anything else. 

All this conversation erupted between the two of us, just because he played his violin so beautifully.


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