Home for the Curious Musician

All of the Times Manneken Pis Dressed Up Like a Musician (We Think!)

Photo by Gregory Autiquet.
Photo by Gregory Autiquet.

If you’ve ever been to Brussels, or know much about Belgian culture, you may already be familiar with the four things they take really seriously over there: beer, fries, waffles, and… a bronze statue of a naked boy urinating into a fountain from 1618, with a penchant for dressing up in various costumes and regalia (sounds like a lot of people I know…). He’s one of the more entertaining stops on the tourist route, that’s for sure.

There are handfuls of stories about how this statue came about, but it’s typically agreed that the first statue named Manneken Pis was put in place around 1388. The current version, a 61 cm tall bronze boy was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder in 1618 and is housed indoors at the Grand Place. So the one tourists take photos with is actually a replica from 1965. Throughout the years, the statue had been stolen so many times that they decided to keep the original protected.

tootsWith Belgian jazz musician Toots Thielemans‘ recent passing, photos eventually surfaced of Manneken Pis’ personal tribute to the beloved multi-instrumentalist and singer. It reminded us of the many other outfits that the pissing boy has donned over the years to celebrate current events and anniversaries of importance, world ethnicities and, of course, Belgian inside jokes and cultural references. So here are a bunch of times that Manneken Pis has dressed up in music-related costume.

+ Learn more on Soundfly: Explore the American cultural heritage of the blues and its influence on subsequent styles of music for free in our course A Conversation with the Blues.

Toots Thielemans

Toots did basically everything a musician could do in his lifetime. In the early days he played in jazz bands with Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker, and later he recorded and performed with artist such as Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Quincy Jones, Pat Metheny, Natalie Cole, Billy Joel, Jaco Pastorius, and many more. He did commercials, film soundtracks, theme songs and all kinds of entertainment. He was so beloved by Belgians that in 2001, King Albert II named him a Baron.

mannekin toots

Accordion Boy

This may be a reference to the life of Rocco Granata, an Italian immigrant who moved to Belgium as a young boy and took up the accordion to assimilate, later becoming one of their proudest stars.

manneken accordion player

Adolphe Sax

Belgian Adolphe Sax was the inventor of the saxophone (1846) as well as other popular instruments such as the saxotromba, saxtuba, and saxhorn.

manneken as adolphe sax

Organ Builder

A celebration of Belgium’s history of pipe organs and organ-playing, in both secular and religious settings. If anyone can tell us what’s on his head (in the comments below) you’ll get all the bonus points…

manneken as organ builder

+ Read more on Flypaper: Speaking of builders and inventors, did you know that Les Paul was one of the first pioneers the 20th century obsession with pirate radio?

Uruguayan Drummer

This costume pays tribute to the Candombe style of music, which is derived from African rhythms and has grown to become an important staple in Uruguayan music.

manneken drummer

Elvis Presley

I guess Belgians just really like rock ‘n’ roll.

mannekin as elvis

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This costume appeared in 2006 to celebrate Mozart’s 250th birthday.

mannekin mozart

19th Century Brussels Street Performer

In Belgium, they take care of their street performers. It’s an important part of urban culture, and has been for hundreds of years. The government even holds monthly auditions in front of a jury! Get practicing!

fete national

Head of the Brass Band of the “Meyboom”

The Meyboom is a traditional parade, dating back to 1213, that involving a brass band, costumes of giants, and a huge tree in the middle of the city, all to celebrate a disputed triumph of Brussels over Leuven, possibly over a tax on beer (though nobody is really sure what they argued about).

mannekin meyboom

Hard Rock Café

This costume celebrates the Brussels franchise of the Hard Rock Café, which was established in 2012 and is located very close to this little bronze rocker.

mann hard rock

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Jeremy Young

Jeremy is a Montreal-based musician, sound artist and improviser who loves giving advice to emerging artists on how to make their tours more effective. He writes, records and performs electroacoustic "concrète" music for tape, oscillators and amplified objects and surfaces, as well as solo guitar. He has performed and released material throughout Europe and the UK, Asia, the US and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.