After reading this article we got to thinking about buskers and how they provide music in public spaces, much like we do. Like our own industry, we recognise that there’s quite a range in style and quality and we started thinking about the best street performances and performers we’ve seen; those who push boundaries, look forward, and can be considered kindred spirits.
Here are some of our favourites:
First up, a long running memory of a blind keyboard player in small town Scotland who played Stevie Wonder numbers in between renditions of Jimmy Shand. A sense of humour like that always deserves a pocketful of change.
Or how about the violinist and flutist on Rose St in Edinburgh, both were/are members of the Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra. There aren’t many combos of this style to start with, and when you heard the staggeringly complex classical pieces they played, in between the cries from passing Stagg and Hen parties roaming the local bars, you were in for a treat. This was definitely more about performance (and perhaps practice) than money.
Less assuming, but no less impressive, was the Viking of 6th Avenue in New York. The elderly gentleman, dresses in a horned helmet, cloak, and long white beard, was known to play music for the crowds as well as occasionally standing stock still between the late 1940s and early 1970s. The fact that he was actually Moondog, an accomplished and revered Classical and Jazz composer, was lost on most who passed him by, but thankfully not lost to history. Check out the teaser for a documentary all about him.
Sticking with the pro’s, here’s our favourite segment from the BBC’s Culture Show, which features Black Francis, of Pixes fame, busking on Glasgow’s Ashton Lane. Sure he only makes £21 and change, but at least he buys some onlookers a drink.
Of course, not all buskers can be as talented as those above. It must be hard to come up with a varied repertoire to cover many long hours out in public, but we feel some street performers need to try a little harder. We know of a saxophone player who knew only three songs and was regularly paid to stop playing. One of the few songs he knew was the local university’s ‘Fight Song’, while another was Chattanooga Choo Choo, and the third was, quite frankly, anybody’s guess. What a set list!
Tell us about your favourites below! Want more news from our blog? Sign up to our monthly newsletter for news, musings on music and psychology, and the reviews of the best new music we find each month.