Although contortionists, snake charmers and barrel organ players have long been forgotten in the world of public performance, street entertainment still thrives today. Whether it is for self-expression, self-preservation, or just for the love of the craft, buskers—a word which comes from buscar in Spanish, meaning to seek or to wander—are a colourful lot of artists who add their unique brushstroke to a city’s portrait.
I’ve always been fascinated by transit musicians and what makes them tick, so I took to the streets not only to show my appreciation but to get to know a few of them.
Twenty-one-year-old Karolina, from Poland, is a music student at the Barcelona conservatory. Her dream is to be a classical violinist and to be able to master Prokofiev and Sibelius. “It is my passion.” Karolina says, “I’ve been playing the violin since I was seven years old.” When asked about her favourite spot and her motivation to play in the subways, Karolina answers frankly: “Plaça Catalunya is the best place, in my opinion. I play in the underpass strictly to sustain myself as a student. In one hour, I could make, on average, sixty euros.”
Xavi Rodellino Pérez, a “subterranean” musician in his forties, commutes fifty kilometres every day to play his favourite folk musicians, such as Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan. Playing the guitar and harmonica from an early age, it wasn’t until hearing Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here that he was inspired to showcase his own musical talents.
“My motivation is the music,” he says. “With music, I found my way in life, dedicating myself to my instrument. I don’t write songs and it’s always been a great frustration that I couldn’t put more effort into writing, because of work and other things. Of course, playing in the subways also helps me earn a bit more than my normal salary.”