I still remember when Erykah Badu first hit the charts. At least I remember hearing Tyrone. And I loved it. I thought it was unique, soulful, and powerfully expressive. We came across this today: Erykah Badu singing in the streets of New York; singing for money. The title of this article is quite provocative and I think it helps make a powerful point that musicians and artists can learn from: Erykah Badu Gives Bizarre NYC Street Performance. The point I think we can take away here: Busking is our art in the streets, not begging for cheese. The people of NYC seem to have made this point clear with their change, or lack thereof it!
Please realize that I am not implying anything beyond my words here. Busking isn’t begging. In fact, it is quite the opposite. And in a world where many people do beg, it is important that we make this distinction. By the way, I am not suggesting that begging in of itself is wrong or shameful. Or that we shouldn’t give to those who beg. People beg because they want to, because they need to, or in some tragic cases, because they are made to. But busking is not about begging. It is about presenting art in the streets. And it is an important part of art, of the community, and of the city.
On some streets around the world, you will find some of the most talented artists ever: in music, painting, dance, pantomime, you name it. But they are there to do their thing, to present their art to the world on the streets. And it is a beautiful thing to see, hear, and experience someone making great art in the streets. But when we play for the people of the streets, do we give them the very best we have to offer? Or do we leave that for the high paying gig?
Many street artists may not have paying gigs at all. Some may. Some may not care either way. But if what we do on the street is any different than what we would do for the highest paying situation, we might want to ask ourselves what we are really doing there. Are you a busker? I would love to hear your thoughts.