Wednesday 3 October 2012

Urban Diary

There you are. Still sitting or standing in almost the exact place where I left you all those many years ago when I used to commute daily to my previous job at the travel agency. There's a difference, though. These days a gigantic name hemming you in in a semicircle advertises a well-known brand. This is the trade-off. You give up your secretive, quasi-illegal status and in exchange you get to be part of "Carling Live Underground Music". You probably hate this deal. Even the less-than-subtle wordplay is platitudinous.

The first time I saw you I had to stop. Your voice sounded so clear. Was it a cover of Tracey Chapman's Talkin' Bout a Revolution or Radiohead's Karma Police you were singing? After that moment whenever I spotted you or one of your compadres or comadres (yes, I noticed there were women, too), I would take my earphones off and allow myself to be sucked into your vortex. Your music, early in the morning rush-hour, was like a short, wake-up whistle that shepherded me and my fellow commuters around you for a few seconds. Occasionally we dropped coins in your empty guitar case. Today as I head for a conference, I can see you've plumped for Coldplay's middle-of-the-road anthem God Put a Smile Upon Your Face. I'll tell you what, I couldn't give two hoots about the so-called Creator, but you are putting a smile upon my face now.

It's not always a guitar you carry these days, you and your fellow musicians have diversified. For example I just saw an accordeonist in King's Cross, a fiddler in Oxford Circus and a drummer in Piccadilly. The latter was particularly impressive. His long dreadlocks swung widely from side to side as he regaled passers-by a simple beat, probably not as complex as what he usually perfoms at Womad in the summer with his band.

I've often wondered, as I see you now starting Girl from Ipanema yet another time, what your dream is. I sometimes imagine you playing in a pub at the end of your hard working day, after having sung Tom Jones' s It's Not Unusual half a dozen times, belting out one of your own songs. Not a fast, loud, one-hundred-decibel tune, but maybe a smooth, acoustic melody that talks about anonymity and determination. A composition that might even mention rejection and struggle. And as you sit there, on a stool placed on an improvised platform, I think of you and your voice as a whistle, luring commuters to you, even if it is for just a couple of seconds. You, shepherd. You, busker.

© 2012

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 7th October at 10am (GMT)


  1. very cool...i love those musicians that play in underground stations and in the streets..i like that you're calling him a way they are and they can surely set or change the mood of a day by their playing and singing

  2. such a strong and vibrant part of the London scene...

  3. To pursue one's passion should never remain as just a dream.

  4. I am not sure what you are saying but I can almost imagine sitting in a subway playing that accordion.

  5. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Tina, "Urban Diary", is a regular column I write highlighting my favourite landmarks of London's urban landscape. In this instance, musicians playing on the Underground never cease to amaze me. These musicians are usually called "buskers". I guess they have them all around the world in big capitals or cities. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  6. I like this very much. Two aspects particularly: the style of talking to the musician and the wondering about his dreams. What makes him tick, in fact. I find this part of the fascination of such people, yet I fear we may be in the minority. A very fine post, this.

  7. A very eloquent tribute. London has some of the most diverse and colorful buskers that I've seen. I'm glad that you appreciate it, so many others don't even notice.

  8. Sometimes buskers have been the highlight of my day. They're magic. Especially when you're walking along, absorbed in the entanglements of your life and you suddenly hear the exactly song and tone and voice that matches your thoughts. I love that.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...