Yesterday afternoon I was reading on the Transmi (it’s sort of like a subway except not really) on my way to work, when I heard strange music behind me. I turn around and there’s a guy playing a harp like a pro. He played several traditional Colombian songs, and he made most of the people on the bus smile and enjoy their commute a lot more.
Here’s a video I took of some of his playing. Please forgive me for recording vertically 😛
I wanted to talk today about one of my favourite things about living in a city: street performers.
Now, they’re one of the things I like most, but that doesn’t mean they’re all great… all too often you get people who get on a bus and play horrible guitar, sing off-key, or just tell dirty stories no one finds amusing, and it’s just uncomfortable sitting there waiting for them to finish so you can go back to listening to a song or a podcast on your phone.
However, when they’re good, they are so much fun.
There’s a lovely old man in the flea market who goes up every Sunday with a little radio and dances tango by himself. Sometimes a beautiful woman will dance with him, or someone watching him will join, and regardless of whether he’s alone or with a lady, it is such a joy to watch him have fun. I’ll try to get a picture or video of him this Sunday to share with you.
My favourites are the ones who improvise. A couple of years ago, two young boys got on a bus I was on, and started making silly limericks making fun of the bus driver, and every single person on the bus. They were kids, and it was all good-natured, and everyone (save a mean grouch near the front of the bus) had a ton of fun, and had a smile on their face after the boys got off the bus. It’s been two or three years, and I still enjoy thinking back to it, that’s how much of an impression it made on me.
About three weeks ago, I was on my way home from work. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally, and just wanted to get home to sleep. About halfway through the hour-long trip, a man got on the Transmi bus with a beatbox. Now, normally rappers here, sorry to say it, suck. They either can’t be heard over the cheap beats coming over their crappy speakers, or they’re bizarrely religious and spend 6 minutes rapping about how we all need Christ. Uh, no thanks.
This guy though, was great. He did something similar to the two kids I mentioned earlier; he went row by row, and improvised something about each people he walked by. He did some compliments, some teasing jokes… one of my favourites was when he rapped about a couple, he complimented a girl, but said he had to criticise her as clearly her taste ‘was a little off,’ referring to the guy next to her. It sounds mean now, but it was very good-natured, and the guy next to the girl had a good laugh.
When he got to me, he said “and to you, beautiful lady, I just want to say you’re gorgeous, and I wish I had a rose like the ones on your skirt, so I could give it to you.” I’m kind of butchering it with the translation, but it was so smooth and flattering. I didn’t really know how to react except to blush and giggle nervously. It made my night, and made me forget all about how tired I was.
I’ve come across all sorts of people in the last few years. A duet of cute girls who did awesome a capella, an awesome band playing kickass jazz on the street, hilarious mimes following people around… anything from music to performance to feats of acrobatics and skill, it’s all there.
It’s why I love riding public transportation here. Sure, there’s a chance you might get some weirdo playing really badly, but there’s also the possibility someone will make your day with some awesome art that you get to enjoy for free, or at a voluntary tip. Isn’t that brilliant? 🙂
Have you come across cool street art? What has been your favourite? What stuff has left an impression for you? Have you had a mostly positive, or negative experience?