The fine art of busking, part 1

Katie Melua is partly of Russian descent. As I recall, she once saw a 6-year-old boy busking in a Moscow metro station, and she was mortified. “Busking is a rite of passage,” she said, “but I think 6 is too young.”

Busking is a rite of passage.I agree. So, in my musical travails, I have made busking part of my journey to move my music career forward. Every Saturday (as I still have a day job), I drag myself out of bed and trek down to The Zone in Rosebank, where I join a whole bunch of fellow musicians, and I stand at the pay stations, where I sing. If people either feel sorry for me, or if they like my voice and the songs I sing, they will give me a tip from the change they get form the pay stations when they pay for their parking.

Some people are mortified by this activity. There was a woman about three weeks ago, who said, “Can’t he get a job doing something else?” She is a northern suburbs white chick, who obviously comes from a life of privilege, and does not think that a white guy of my age should stand there begging for money. Quite frankly, I think she is ageist, racist, sexist and a snob. Mind you, there are very few female buskers – one or two, all white. Who cares? There is only one other white guy who busks, and he must be headed for 70. The other guys are all black, and people do peer down their noses at them. Busking is seen as the lowest form of existence. We are like musical car guards – people tip us because maybe sometimes they think they have to.

So why do I do it? Because I absolutely, unabashedly love singing, and busking gives me the opportunity to sing and get paid for it. It makes me a professional singer. It also gives you nerves of steel. I have been heckled, people have tried to out-sing me, people have ignored me, people have sneered at me. I even once had a guy offer me his left-over chips from his burger meal because obviously he thought I was poor and I needed the food. I said why not, thanked him, took them, and in between sets ate them. Read part 2 for more about busking.

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