Busking

One thing London has to offer is a variety of buskers. Just about every Tube station has one. Some have more.

The legality of it all is quite confusing.  There was a blind man playing an accordion just down from a sign saying buskers would be fined £200. Clearly he didn’t see the sign. At another station there was a painted (or carefully tiled) semi-circle area on the floor which seemed to be created for busking. I favour the latter approach, as busking really is a London institution. Do people really complain?

The quality ranges from almost professional to atonally bizarre. At one station a hip-hopper with a wireless mike started singing about the kids making up lyrics as we walked by and followed us for a short distance. Then there was the man with no legs who played one note on a pipe of some kind. He just tooted the one note at random intervals.

Disability did seem to be a recurring theme. I suppose that when opportunity or academic inclination hasn’t offset physical handicap, begging is a reasonable recourse. And buskers are actually putting some effort into their work – or in the case of the tooting double amp, at least making a noise to get noticed.

And there are those who seem to be making a lifestyle choice. Two or three times a day, you come across the really talented. These are the ones that should be playing in a band somewhere. Maybe they do in the evenings.

The most memorable busker I have ever heard – in fact, the only one I can remember from more than three days ago – was a Afro-Caribbean man playing classical music on a steel drum at the bottom of an escalator. It was in 1992. I don’t remember the Tube station.  He was playing Für Elise by Beethoven.

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4 Responses to “Busking”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    I rather like hearing buskers as I shop, and when I have travelled on the underground,
    though for the shopworkers who have to listen to buskers pitched right outside their shop all day might find them rather irritating……..

    Fur Elise is one of my alltime faves; to hear it on a steel drum must have been awesome !

  2. Michelle Says:

    Interesting the similarities between places – you might as well have been writing about the buskers in the NYC subway, the Paris Metro, etc. I guess busking is a big city thing. My favorite is the ‘Saw Lady‘ who plays the musical saw in the NYC subway and the guy in the Paris Metro who stretches a curtain inside the train and does a puppet show to recorded music. Brilliant.

  3. Michael Says:

    I remember the buskers from my 1989 trip to England. I wouldn’t mind pulling out the cello & doing some busking myself, but that career option doesn’t seem to be available in my area.

  4. sol Says:

    Für Elise is one of the few Beethoven pieces I was ever able to play on the piano. The steel drum guy sounded way better than I ever did.

    Michelle, I’ve never been to NYC or on the Paris Metro, so London is my principal experience of big city public transport busking. We have buskers here in our city and in just about every other city in Britain, but I think the variety available in big city busking is great.

    Michael, you would at least have the only game in town.


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