08 April 2013

Bach and my 2 Euros

The other day, I parted away from my 2 Euros while I was in Berlin's Yorckstrasse metro station. The reason for this was none other than Johann Sebastian Bach.

See, Berlin has its share of buskers. You go to Museuminsel and you'll see musicians standing at street corners serenading tourists while they go in and out of the museums. However, they are most prominent when you are in the metros, as sooner or later, you'll encounter someone playing music, and yes, contributions are more than welcome.

The thing is, there are good and bad music out there. There is this pianist that usually sits in front of Dussmann the large bookstore near Friedrichstrasse, and he has a good repertoire, ranging from Mozart to Chopin to even contemporary favorites like Broadway music and such. However, the location he picked has very high traffic that sometimes you just cannot enjoy the music. People are walking back and forth and there's just so much noise around that it is hard to appreciate his talent.

And then, there are the people who just have a bad taste in music, or a bad talent. Like, they might as well just walk around asking for money and not do the gig. There is this one guy who is a freestyle rapper, he raps about the scene he sees inside the metro, every time he sees me he mentions an Asian guy reading a book in his freestyle rap. There is also this guy who plays a saxophone accompanied by these recorded accompaniments in a backpack, while his kid goes around in front of him shoving a cup in front of everyone's face. And every now and then, I see this guy playing a dulcimer or a santur, and somehow, it is more a novelty than talent at this point.

Needless to say, I never give money to these buskers. I just cannot appreciate them. But that changed recently. While I was at Yorckstrasse waiting for my train, I heard Johann Sebastian Bach. I thought the Toccata and Fugue in D minor was being played at a portable organ, but it turned out to be an accordion, being played by someone sitting at the corner of the station, quietly. And there wasn't a huge amount of foot traffic that one could really hear the notes and appreciate the music.

And wow, that was amazing. I never thought the accordion can do that. Hence, I gave him 2 Euros, dropping the coin into his bag, where he had a couple of his CDs on display as well. He was good, and the large pile of coins in his bag showed that.

(Ceiling Detail, from my Cleveland Old Arcade Series)


  1. Buskers in the subway in Paris aren't that good most of the time... can't remember giving them anything. But I did tip buskers here in Ottawa!

    1. Zhu,

      That typically is the case, isn't it? They're usually awful, only the rare moment when you feel compelled to stop and realize wow, they're good, then I give them a tip. And for me, tipping buskers is a big thing, since I don't like the idea of being a forced audience in the first place.

  2. I'm sure you've seen them buskers in NYC too. I agree, there are good apples just as there are bad ones. It's always a delight for me to find a very talented musician - like this lady on the 42nd St. tunnel who plays amazing violin.
    I couldn't say about the Naked Cowboy's talent (can't even remember him singing at all hahaha!)

  3. TNP,

    Oh, the Naked Cowboy. Believe it or not I haven't seen him yet. Most of these are not musical acts but more performance artists anyway.