No matter where you live in the world, you will probably at sometime – whether in your own country or whilst travelling – have encountered buskers. If you’ve ever been in any major city in Ireland, you will certainly have seen some. If you’ve visited Dublin, you can’t have avoided them. They are very much a part of Dublin’s heritage and culture.
And now, it seems, there are some people who would like to ban them. Or, at least, ban them from using amplifiers. Now, while there might be an argument for this in a residential area, this is not the case here. This ban is being suggested for Temple Bar and Grafton Street, two of the most built-up shopping streets in Dublin, filled with pubs and shops blasting out music that equals anything the buskers produce.
In Ireland we have an unfortunate and very particular type of amnesia. We like to – rightly – celebrate and promote the talents of our various singers, writers, artists and so on. However, we often forget where they came from. Glen Hansard has built a global career as a singer-songwriter, as well as starring in (and scoring) a movie about buskers in Dublin called “Once”. “Once” went on to win an Academy Award for “Best Original Song”, an amazing achievement for a small Irish film. Irish people were immensely proud. However, a lot of them perhaps didn’t know or had forgotten that Glen – as so many Irish bands and singers have done – cut his teeth on the streets of Grafton Street as a young busker.
Another band who is doing this is Keywest. Without the help of a record label or a PR machine, Keywest have carved out a career for themselves largely though busking on Grafton Street and selling their CDs. They now have a huge following on Facebook and Twitter, and videos of their performances on Grafton St. have been viewed over a two million times on YouTube.
“The busking pays for everything really,” Andy (lead singer) admits. “It’s crazy. We have funded all our records, marketing , publicity, this way. It is a godsend. It’s an amazing thing to have stumbled upon because it is the dilemma for every artist and band, how do we put a hundred per cent of ourselves into our music, whilst keeping the band together? … Something like busking, (which we still love and do to this day) is a great way to make money while you can play your songs, test new material and hopefully see your fan base increase with everyone that is kind enough to pick up a CD … It is the fans that make it for Keywest … It is all very much built from the ground up, with the busking feeding into the club gigs and the radio.”
Keywest are at the forefront of a new campaign to save busking in Dublin called #saveirishbusking. You can watch a video and find out more about it on their Facebook page.
At a time when music (and especially live music) is becoming more homogenised and bland, artists who can stand in the street and belt out songs without the aid of auto tune and huge production values should be hailed not hindered. Hands off our buskers!