Busker Spirit

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April 19, 2008
By Posted in Times Square Subway Station | 1 Comment »

Carrying my busking equipment up and down stairs is a workout…
I was lucky – a gentleman helped me up the first set of stairs and a lady helped me up the second set of stairs going into the subway (which is actually an elevated train here) this morning.

Elevated train

At 11:40AM there was nobody at the Music Under New York spot at the Times Square subway station. The sound of music coming out of the record store next to the busking spot was not loud at all. I hoped it would stay that way. The store blasting out music is the reason why this most coveted busking territory in NYC is now often empty. In the days before the store opened, buskers used to fight over this spot. I held my ground against many a bucket-drummer, hip-hop dance groups, bands and amplified singers who tried to force me out of the spot by setting up on me and out-louding me. But now many buskers can’t play here any more.

Times Square mezzanine

As I was getting ready to play, GrayWolf’s father-in-law walked by with his keyboard. He told me GrayWolf is still having success busking in Brooklyn. The Jewish neighborhood where he now plays his pan flute is very enthusiastic about his Andean music, so he doesn’t come to Times Square any more.
GrayWolf’s father-in-law told me he has various illnesses. He was all bundles up in a heavy coat even though it wasn’t so cold today. He was on his way to playing on the platform.

By the busking spot at Times Square

As I started to play my first tune, Fred and Limal from Srilanka stood by with a confused look on their faces. Fred plays keyboards and Limal dances. They have been in the USA for 9 years, performing at gigs but now they decided they want to busk. Yesterday they played on the platform and had a good time, but this morning a policeman told them they cannot have amplification on the platform. They came to ask me if what the policeman said is indeed true. I informed them that it is – technically amplification is only aloud on mezzanines.

At 12:20 one of the record store owners (the nice one) came out to see who was playing. I said to him that I hope I am not too loud and he said I’m OK.
A while later he came out again, but this time it was to check if a DVD display was playing properly in the store’s window.

The ads of Broadway shows on the upper-upper mezzanine were being taken down and replaced with orange ads saying ‘Knowledge to Act’.

Ads at Times Square subway station

As I was playing the Schubert ‘Ave Maria’ a guy took a little bugle out of his bag and asked me in pantomime from afar if I want him to play with me.

At 1pm the record store owner, came to tell me that “we can hear you (inside the store) but you can’t hear us”. I told him that I can hear the store’s music loud and clear. He said “you must have good ears then”. He was actually nice to me. He told me that he had a meeting with the MTA and the police. They came to an agreement that there won’t be any loud musicians playing next to his store and in return the store won’t try to blast the musicians away with their speakers. He told me that he still thinks the MUNY busking spot should be moved away towards the Shuttle, but he told me a musician has actually tried setting up there and the police told him he has to be by the store.

Times Square subway station

A guy told me that he saw me with the Riverside Orchestra.
The guy who always yells “Saw Lady, Saw Lady, she’s so happy, Saw Lady” went by and yelled out his usual greeting.

The kid who used to sell turnstile swipes upstairs by the token booth came to say ‘hi’. He grew. I haven’t seen him in a long time (the police busted the card swipers a long time ago). He pointed to the pregnant girl beside him and said “I’m married now and we are expecting twins”. I asked him what he does these days and he said he does ‘fundraising’ and that he is looking for a job since he has a family to support.

Turnstiles at Times Square station

Delta Dave, who sings & plays blues on guitar and harmonica and sits in a wheel chair, came to tell me that this Saturday he has the gig that I helped him get at a youth hostel.
He then proceeded to Grand Central Station where he had a permit to play on the mezzanine.

Delta Dave

The guy who makes balloon sculptures waved hello.
At 3pm Fred and Limal were back. They said they tried to play at Union Square, outside in the park, and the police told them that amplification is not aloud. I explained to them that the park rangers at Union Square are notoriously tough with musicians.
So they now went to try their luck in the corridor by the upper-upper mezzanine. They have the busker spirit – they don’t get easily discouraged.


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One Response to Busker Spirit

  1. tom godfrey on April 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    howdy natalia, my names tom and im a busker too but on the london underground. i love the blog, more buskers should record their experiences as its a really interesting and unpredictable profession- its really eye opening to read about new york as opposed to london too. im recording an album of buskers in action at the moment for my final project at univesity, go to http://www.myspace.com/buskerrhymes if you’re interested in checking it out. kudos on the saw by the way, its such a beautiful and haunting sound and you seem to play it really well 😀

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