What Is Busking and Why Is It Called So?
Busking means to entertain people in a public place. It can include dancing, singing, or many other art forms. These people are called buskers. For hundreds of years, buskers have entertained the public in hopes of earning money, food, drinks, or other gifts from passersby. Busking dates back to at least medieval Europe. Some travelers would perform in public areas. Local merchants would also invite them to play in front of their businesses. They did so to draw the attention of customers.
The term busking was first noted in the English language around the middle 1860s in Great Britain. The verb to busk, from the word busker, comes from the Spanish root word buscar, with the meaning “to seek”. The Spanish word buscar in turn evolved from the Indo-European word *bhudh-skō (“to win, conquer”). It was used for many street acts, and was the title of a famous Spanish book about one of them, El Buscón. Today, the word is still used in Spanish but mostly relegated for female street sex workers, or women seeking to be set up as private mistresses of married men.
Buskers are street performers that entertain a transient audience. As such, they create art that reflects the cultural, social and economic state of their audience in order to engage them in a short period of time. The result is that their music, dance, theatre and comedy has a different flavour in each city. Comparing how the buskers connect to their audiences in each location gives you more information about current local culture there than, say, the museums, restaurants, shops or bars, as a busker’s audience is much more diverse. Buskers are a real mirror of their surroundings, projected in a way designed to move you.
In America, busking got its start with traveling circuses. People who worked in the circus began to take their acts to the streets to make extra money from tips. Many people think of buskers as solo guitar players with hats at their feet for tips. But busking actually includes many types of acts. Buskers might dance, tell fortunes, or juggle. They might also do magic, snake charm, or do ventriloquism! There’s no end to the activities busking could include. Today, busking remains popular with music artists. It gives them a chance to practice playing in public. It can also help them build an audience.
A top ten list of the best busker cities pitches in the world:
1. Djemaa El Fna, Marrakech
2. The Royal Mile at the Edinburgh Fringe
3. Khaosan Road
4. Shibuya Crossing
5. The French Quarter of New Orleans
6. New York City
7. Plaza De Armas in Santiago
8. Xochimilco, Mexico City
9. Covent Garden Market
10. Traffic Lights, Worldwide