A little street music


I frequently find myself annoyed by street and subway music.

While it was novel for a couple years, I now tend to find it invasive. There’s the hunchbacked elderly man who “plays” the keyboard, usually at the Times Square station, with an array of dancing, musical dolls arranged around him. Every time I see him I feel uncomfortable, just as I do when I see the child “prodigy” who can only play Fur Elise (and badly at that) as his father, dressed exactly like the boy, hovers in the background. The Peruvians who play “Amazing Grace” on pan pipes while dressed in “indigenous” clothing leave me with unwanted, overly academic thoughts about acculturation. The woman with her guitar who strums and sings songs with depressingly slow tempos provokes a car-wide wave of melancholy as subway riders drop their heads. Anyone who plays buckets as drums just pisses me off.

So it’s been strange and wonderful, lately, to have met two subway-street musicians who are playing for pure joy, not economic want or need, and who have interacted with Mariel for a brief but powerful moment:

This guy played his uke for Mariel while we waited for the N train.


2 responses »

  1. A few months ago I was riding the subway from JFK into Manhattan. It was pretty late at night, and I wasn’t sure where I was going to sleep, but I had an old leather suitcase full of conch shells. A teenager took out a boombox once the train got rolling and started dancing all over the car. At the next stop he took off his hat and asked for money. I gave him a conch shell. He was confused, at first, and then seemed quite touched, thanked me sincerely, picked up his boombox and went away.

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