Working on Co-existing

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Salieu Suso, the African kora player, was playing at the Music Under New York spot at the Times Square subway station when I got there.
Salieu told me that a lady from Arts for Transit was there this morning. She told him to point his amp away from the record store.
Salieu told me that he was thinking of me last weekend – he played at a festival in Westchester. A guy picked up a shovel and joined the music by banging a rhythm on it. Salieu told that guy about me, that I play a saw. And now, a few days later, Salieu sees me. He said it is always like this – if you think of somebody, it’s a sign that you are about to see them soon.

Kora player

I set up with my amp facing away from the record store.
As soon as I finished playing my first song the owner of he record store came out. He had a big smile on his face as he approached me. I’m so glad he considers me a friend now. He told me that the lady from Arts for Transit was here this morning (of course I already knew that, from Salieu). He told me that Raices Group (who play Andean music) were playing at the spot. Their flute player told him that if they play quietly then they have no energy and they don’t feel like playing. So the store owner suggested that they could play with no amplification. But the flute player said that it is very taxing on the body to play with no amplification, and that he couldn’t last more than 20 minutes with no amplification. Finally Raices Group called the Music Under New York office and told the manager to find them a different spot to play at, because they cannot play at the spot next to the record store. The store owner was very happy – he said it was as if he had paid them to say what they said, because they were saying exactly what he always said. The sound of the flute is too piercing and he can hear it inside his store.

Saw Lady at Times Square
Photographer: © Rachel S. Geylin

The store owner said there were some freelancers who played unamplified – bass, guitar and a singer. They set up next to the farther column from his store, and their sound didn’t bother him. He asked me to move to the other column. I told him that I can’t because I’m supposed to be at the Music Under New York spot, which is where the hooks for the banner are. He said that I could leave the banner by this column and set up next to the other column. I told him that my banner would then be stolen since I will not be right next to it. I already had my banner stolen in the past.
He asked me to just go and play one song by the other column, for him to see if it will make a difference in the sound. I agreed and moved my amp and chair to the other column. When I played he went into the store to see if he could hear me any less in there. He came back and said there was actually no difference in the sound level. I said that the way the sound travels probably has less to do with the distance of the musician from the store than the way the sound recochets from the walls.
Still, the store owner said that it would be better if the musicians set up farther away from his store. I promised him that I will convey his idea to the Music Under New York office.
Thinking about it later, I realized moving to the other column would not be good for the musicians – there is less people walking by that column, plus, there is less clearance, so the musicians would be in the way of whoever does walk that way.
The store owner told me that he was complaining to the MTA that he can’t tell which musicians are permitted to be there, because many musicians use stolen banners… He said that the MTA told him they will be issuing new banners that will have an expiration date on them, in order to combat the problem of stolen banners…

Saw Lady at Times Square
Photographer: © Rachel S. Geylin

The guys who work at the Times Square station who were asking me for a long time now to come and play at their station any day but Monday (their day off) were very happy to finally have me at their station.

A B-boy (breakdancer) told me that many of the hip-hop dance groups who used to work in the subway moved to Boston. He is looking to join them there, but he needs $15 for the China bus to Boston.

Romero, Bo and Chil serenaded me with a song I’ve never heard them do before. They were on their way back from singing on the #6 train line.

The hip hop dancer with the gold tooth told me that his group has been traveling around, which is why we haven’t run into each other lately.

Saw Lady at Times Square
Photographer: © Rachel S. Geylin

Three Nortenos went by and waved, as did Ming Jun the cellist and Alex (little ‘Michael Jackson’).

There were quite a few ladies in light blue graduation gowns, and also some sailors – fleet week must be approaching.

The sound from the record store was jacked up. I decided to call it a day.


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2 Responses to Working on Co-existing

  1. laurie on May 27, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    so why doesn’t the music store guy want you around? you play music. (and if that’s you that i hear on your webpage, you play very beautiful, haunting music.)

  2. Saw Lady on May 29, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Laurie,

    Thank you for your kind words about my playing! (Yes, that’s me playing on my webpage).

    The music store owner thinks the buskers are taking away business from him… isn’t it crazy? You would think a music store owner would encourage musicians…

    All the best,


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