by Matt Murphy
Have you ever been to a major city and seen a street musician with his or her instrument case open on the sidewalk for donations? All the while, he or she plays with little regard to the world around them, often improvising or practicing a tune from memory. There’s a term for this: busking. In fact, the very definition of busking is “to play or perform for voluntary donations in the street or in a subway.”
Busking is often associated with major cities. YouTube and social media are good resources to find many videos of Julliard-trained musicians playing impressive cover songs in the subways of New York City. Rappers can be found throwing beats in the subways of Chicago. During Indianapolis Colts games, a random tenor saxophone player may be heard improvising underneath the train line underpass in the heart of downtown. Jazz musicians can be found playing the blues in the heart of the French Quarter in “N’awlins.”
Here’s the thing, though… You don’t have to go to a major city to have this experience. Our very own city of Charleston will often time be home to buskers (as well as street artists, too). There is no question, the arts scene in Charleston is growing and flourishing. Maybe not at a breakneck pace, but the arts are clearly a priority in our community. From this, comes musicians playing in our streets!
There are several performers downtown you may run into on a regular basis. Chris Allen playing solo bass guitar, for example, or Garrett Maner on his accordion or any other plethora of instruments. Possibly, Christopher Vincent may serenade you along Capital Street. The faces and accompanying instruments may vary, but the charm will not. Have you ever stopped to listen? Better yet, have you tossed a buck their way? Hell, you could even go a step further and ask for a song request, just… don’t make it too cliché, okay?
This custom of busking may seem strange or new to you, but it is merely a positive sign of the healthy arts scene in Charleston. Don’t be afraid to stop and listen. Take in your surroundings and just watch for a moment; slow down and enjoy the artistry being made before your very eyes! We are so lucky to have so many talented artists and musicians in this city and I would implore you to avail yourself of as many opportunities as possible to enjoy the work of these great talents. Music and art are alive in Charleston! Let’s help grow it together.