I'm gonna busk you out
By Kent McKee
One of the most unconstrained ways to exhibit your verve and ingeniousness is to stand on a street corner with a guitar and a harmonica, dazzling the listless patrons who walk by with pleasant, melodious euphony. Although it is charming and provides a festive atmosphere, Canadians, in general, seem to misunderstand this benevolent escapade.
Busking is an unscheduled public performance in an unscheduled public place. The entertainer is usually a jovial local who expects people to throw a few coins into their case.
This summer, while wandering like a Nomad, I went backpacking and busking in the fantastical exuberance of Europe. Almost all European cities seem festive in nature, for they often boast a town centre with cobblestone walking roads and ubiquitous cafés. A busker belongs in this territory since many spectators will often provide ardent applause and people think nothing of emptying the shillings out of their pockets. In Salzburg, Austria, even the somewhat thespian town drunk showed his appreciation by blearily placing a bottle that contained what was left of his beer in my guitar case.
Conversely, Canada is different. Busking seems to be something reserved either for the riffraff or for the annual city "Buskerfest" which boasts polished, tawdry acts and exorbitant ice cream waffles. A performer must audition months in advance in order to be included in the carnival and unfortunately most of the acts are not local. However, buskerfest is still a stellar way to introduce the idea to the public.
Busking is all about courage and composure. You must be prepared for the elite nobility who walk by bloated and pompous, aloof to your generation and somewhat uninterested and intolerant of your music. On the contrary, you must also be prepared for the surprise when luminous people actually enjoy your performance.
Canada is full of unique artists that go unnoticed. Some are prodigious geniuses without a gig. We must consider busking as an alternative outlet for serious musicians who have not yet been lucky enough to produce their one mammoth hit song.
Perhaps it's only a matter of perspective. The masses seem to consider musicians marketed by stadium-sized concerts and abundant air time on those heinous "Top 10 at 10" lists to be the best. So the next time you see a busker, or find yourself busking, just pretend you are only a listless member in a enormous crowd with whistling, cheering, encores, benevolent gestures, plausible condolences, and endless clapping.