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Street Music UK

By Published: March 10, 2013
For many, the idea of performing on the street is scary but I can understand why musicians enjoy it. One veteran saxophonist told me once, "The buzz of seeing someone's eyes nearly pop out of their skull when I play free jazz they've never heard before or when you see tears in a woman's face while you play a song is like nothing on earth and you cannot get it to the same extent at a gig with the stage and space between you (whether they cry because you play good or bad is another matter)."

A great thing about street music too is choice. You can stay and listen—or not. A few years back I took some people from Japan to Edinburgh and they really wanted to hear bagpipes. Spotting a busker in Princes Street preparing to play his pipes I made sure we were in position as he began. Suffice to say, the sound of the pipes was not what they expected and after a few moments of utter consternation one of the group practically begged me to take them some place far, far away.

Street music can be raw, it can be excellent but if offers another avenue for players, it allows them to try new ideas and ways of playing and see how people react. It gives them exposure, pays (a little) and, most importantly, it makes music part of every body's life.

Street music brings life to our streets; it injects vitality and change in areas which are becoming ever more generic and bland with chains and standard looking buildings. It makes people smile, stop for a while, communicate and listen. If you watch the crowd around a good street musician you can see their faces, the smiles, the interactions as they catch other peoples' eyes—interactions which have come about only because of the music.

Some street players only do it as a temporary measure, others do it in the hope of being discovered, but others still return to the streets even when they have achieved success because there is nothing quite like the buzz, the up-close-and-personal and the sheer delight of playing their music.

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