Davide Martello

Pianist Rolls Through Ottawa on His Bicycle-Driven Piano

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Davide Martello is used to turning heads when he rolls into a public square towing his grand piano with a bicycle.

When he set up Wednesday afternoon under Maman, the giant spider sculpture in front of the National Art Gallery, it was the 28th — or was it the 29th? — world capital he had played in.

Martello, 32, born in Germany to Italian parents, started travelling the world with his piano in April 2011. The idea started as a way to play his original compositions for new crowds. The former hairdresser initially didn’t tell his parents about his plan.

“My parents are very, very conservative, and they wanted me to have a nice family and everything regular,” he said.

His current vocation is far from regular. He built a hydraulics system on which the piano sits, which allows him to raise and lower it. The bench he sits on is bolted to the piano, which is in turn attached to the bicycle.

For transportation between cities, he has an old Volkswagen Corrado G60 and a trailer for the piano. He has been in the United States since October, and has only been in Canada for about a week.

Martello first caught the travel bug when he travelled to Eygpt for two weeks by himself when he was 19 years old.

He is chronicling his current journey online; his Facebook page has about 20,000 likes and nearly 5,000 Twitter followers. His goal is to visit every country — close to 200 of them — and play in every world capital.

He arrived in Ottawa on Monday and has also played in front of the War Memorial and the Government Conference Centre.

Martello’s fondest memory from his travels was in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he set up in front of a cathedral, played for hours and drew a massive crowd.

But travelling across the world with a grand piano has its share of difficulties. While playing in Turkey last June, he said police threw tear gas canisters at the crowd. And he was recently stuck in New Orleans for four months when his car broke down and it took him a while to find replacement parts. His legs got really strong from biking the piano around the city, he said.

He plans to eventually go to the West Coast, and then after that south to Mexico and beyond. The goal is still go to every country in the world, though he doesn’t have a timetable.

“I don’t know. There are a lot of countries. It might take me a long time,” he said.

So what has Martello learned about people from his years of travelling the world?

“That people are all different in every country. … I can feel it. And it’s hard to describe, and you cannot say this is better than that … it’s just different,” he said. “It’s very interesting to see the reaction of people while I’m playing. People are around me, they’re sitting around the piano, they enjoy it. Some of them dance, they just shout, ‘Oh, it’s a piano on the street, that’s cool.’ ”


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