When busking is misunderstood

We were always fascinated by buskers, we always supported them and we always admired their courage of opening themselves up to strangers on the streets. Because, believe us, it’s not an easy thing to do! Let us tell you why. Comparing busking to begging is retarded, because busking is the act of performing in public areas for gratuities, while begging is the practice of imploring others to grant a favour, often a gift of money, with little or no expectation of reciprocation (source: Wikipedia).

I remember even now all the buskers we have met on the way, because all of them transmitted something, emotions. Doesn’t matter if they were playing music, selling photos, posing as statues, doing magic, etc. We always tried to talk to them, hear the story behind and be inspired by them. We always felt a mix of inspiration and admiration because it is not easy to put yourself and your work in front of so many people that sometimes can look down on you.

The truth is that I cried in Amsterdam and in Prague while listening to amazing music from two buskers; we admired another singer in Kuala Lumpur and sat down with him and listened for half an hour to his performance; we talked to another busker in Penang who was selling his photos; we shared stories with another singing busking couple who were traveling for almost two years; in Spain I met a family (mother, father, daughter) who were traveling and living only out of creating bracelets and handmade hair decoration on the streets.

Because I am passionate about photography, because we both like to interact with people and hear/share stories and because we admire so much all the buskers that we met, we considered it is time to get over this fear and try to do it ourselves. What could go wrong? Well, it seems that something can go wrong. Stay with us!

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While in Singapore, we chose some of the best photos that we had from our home country, some from Europe and some from our favourite country so far, Indonesia. We picked a place, sat down, spread our photos on the ground together with a sign saying ‘support our trip around the world”. It is our work and it is a way to express our passion for travel photography. People started to stop and check what we had there, asking questions, talking to us, being interested in our story and, most of all, appreciating what we were doing there by taking a photo from our portfolio, in exchange for a donation, we did not ask for money. We even donated photos. It was everyone’s decision if they donated or not. Simple as that! We met a lot of nice people, one time we had a queue of about 7 people waiting to write messages on the back of the photos that they took from us, others sent us really nice messages after meeting us, saying that they felt inspired. Mission accomplished!

Not short after this, we read on Facebook the first story that was written about us. In contrast to all the good feedback that we got on the street, this article is racist and full of hatred, it lacks professionalism, is tendentious and very poorly documented. We were called beggars, panhandlers, beg-packers. The author of one article wrote: “Not that they were destitute or anything (note their camera and jolly demeanour)” According to them, we were clearly begging for money on the streets. People, we are not destitute, we are not poor! We have clothes, we have money and we have a good camera which is taking all those photos! We will travel with or without busking. Why do we busk? We already explained above.

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Soon after the article appeared, it was shared on a lot of groups and it was also published by other online publications, even in Europe. Thank you for the exposure!

What we learned from this experience? Always, but always check the local legislation in regards to busking. We will keep on doing all of the following activities which brought us a lot of joy and a lot of friends: hitchhiking, couch surfing and, of course, busking.

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We will do it for all those who stopped to see us, all those who appreciated us, all those who felt inspired by us, all those who sent us encouraging messages and all those who believe in being a traveller and not a tourist.

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3 thoughts on “When busking is misunderstood

  1. I learned a new term today- busking! I always called the street performers and artists just that: street performers and artists. I feel that if I am taking enjoyment from them, watching them work, singing, juggling… they should be paid for their services. I get aggravated when I see people videoing street performers then not tipping.

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