When I arrived at the Music Under New York busking spot at the 14th street subway station Salieu Suso, the kora player from Africa, was there. As he was packing up his busking gear and I was setting up mine, he told me about kora playing in Africa. I saw him taking money out of a hole in his kora (which is made of a gourd) and I asked him about this unusual stashing place. He told me that in the old days in his country kora players would sit at court, listening to trials. They would write songs about the trials. In the middle of the trial the court would break session in order to listen to music praising the king. The king and queen would then put money inside the kora. Sometimes they would put jewelery there, too.
Salieu told me that the last time he was at his country it wasn’t a nice visit – it was for his mother’s funeral. Six months later his brother had a baby. “It’s like recycling – one soul goes, another comes” he said.
At 3pm the Dagmar alt-rock duo (Meghan & Jim) arrived for their permitted busking spot. Meghan just came from an audition for a musical. Jim told me of a video he made while busking at this spot a while back: he placed a camera facing the audience and let it run as they were busking. Later, he edited numbers into the film, counting how many people passed them by as they were busking. It turned out that during a 4 minute song 400 people passed them by. That’s 100 people per minute. You can’t buy exposure like that.