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‘Despacito’ accordion player nabbed by TTC

Two men thought to be brothers have been spotted across the subway system this month playing the hit song “Despacito” on the accordion. After several warnings by transit officers, one of the men will have to stand before a Justice of the Peace to defend his musical choices.

April 30, 2018
Alexandra Jones

Over the past month, commuters have been entertained and enraged by a pair of accordion performers playing the hit song “Despacito” on the TTC, but the wheeze of at least one of those accordions has been silenced by a summon laid by TTC officers to stand in court and possibly pay a fine.

There are numerous videos online of the musicians, who are thought to be brothers. One dresses in a red jacket, and the other in a black one, and they often appear alone, but are always playing the same catchy song.

According to TTC spokesperson Stuart Green, several TTC officers were on patrol just before noon on Monday on a Line 1 train moving through St. Andrew Station when they heard the distant strains of that distinctive song coming from farther down the train. When they walked towards the music, they found him: the man in black, accordion in hand.

At Union Station, the man was escorted off the train by the officers, and a conversation ensued. Green says the man in black was “respectful and polite ... very cooperative and he was very pleasant to our transit enforcement (officers)” and that although English was not his first language, he did understand the summons and why he was being talked to. Some tweets online refer to the pair speaking Italian.

The accordion musicians have been warned twice before, Green said, and this was “the third strike.

“We’ve cautioned them in pairs before, but today it was just the one.”

The problem isn’t the choice in song, or instrument, it’s that the men are breaking a bylaw, the exact wording of which is, “interference with ordinary enjoyment of the transit system.”

Although that sounds fairly vague, Green said essentially the issue is loud music in a space where commuters expect silence.
“One of the top complaints we get to our customer service department about customer behaviour is loud music and noise, so people without headphones, for example. So we do take these things seriously,” he said.

He admitted that they hadn’t actually received any specific complaints through their customer service line about the accordion players, but that they were aware of the online discussion unfolding as commuters shared tweets and videos about encounters: “The public seemed to be split on whether it was good or bad.”

“Someone playing despacito on Accordion on the TTC is yet another stark reminder that life is pain,” said one Twitter user.

Samantha Joyce included a video of the man in red playing the accordion on a train, confessing, “honestly this just made my day. You keep accordioning, dude! Thanks for the smile. #ThisiswhyIloveToronto.”

Green said the positive feedback does make sense to him, but that it doesn’t change their position on bylaws.

“We understand that if you are maybe a little down, you see a guy playing the accordion, that might bring a smile to your face. We get that. The problem we have is that our bylaws are there for a specific reason. It’s a slippery slope, you know, if we turn a blind eye to a guy playing the accordion, what else do we have to let slide?”

The accordion player could have faced a $235 fine, which is one of the standard punishments handed out for breaking this bylaw, but transit officers instead decided to issue him a 104 summons, and “with this he appears before a Justice of the Peace and that’s where the Justice of the Peace will determine a fine if he’s found guilty. This isn’t as punitive as (the $235 fine). It’s somewhere between a warning and a ticket.”

If the Justice of the Peace so decides, he may not be fined at all, and he could be let off with a warning.