• Updated : 2020.5.29 금 18:19
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Busking : Art of Street
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승인 2013.10.04  20:21:31
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A busker singing and playing the guitar on the Street of Art, Gwangju

Recently, we can see people, so-called buskers who are singing or playing a musical instrument on the streets around Chonnam National University (CNU), particularly when the weather is good, or on weekends. In the past street performance or “busking” was perceived as playing music or performing in a public place while asking passers-by to donate money on the streets. But nowadays, street performers, especially musicians and singers give street concerts for various reasons and their busking has become popular in young generations because it is a good opportunity for people on the street to enjoy music with or without participation. In this issue, the Chonnam Tribune met several buskers based in Gwangju and listened to their experiences in order to examine the cultural meaning of busking.
What Is Busking?
    Basically busking is street performance for gratuities. The term was first noted in the English language in the middle 1860s in Great Britain and since then, buskers were commonly called 'minstrels' in many countries such as the United States and Europe. Now, it is an ordinary thing that someone is playing a music instrument or singing in public places in cities including New York and Paris. In Korea, it appeared for the first time around the middle of the 1990s and has been invigorated from the beginning of the 2000s in the surrounding area of Hongik University in Seoul.
    Now busking, mainly musical performing is an emerging cultural trend and it is also used as a means of musical promotion in Korea. Because a variety of buskers such as amateur musicians and students give musical concerts in cities, the opportunity for ordinary people to enjoy and participate in street performances are increasing. Even famous singers have an opportunity to give a street concert and communicate with audiences at the popular busking spots. The band ‘Busker Busker’ has currently experienced success with its second album. The band members had a lot of busking experience which helped in their success at the Korean audition show “Super Star K”.
    Some people busk to advocate their opinions about social issues. Musicians’ relay their opinions through busking. One example is K.G.B. Woodstock held in Seoul in June and August. The name of K.G.B. is the abbreviation of “Kukjeongwon (The National Intelligence Service, NIS) Gate Busking”. The purpose of the relay busking was to denounce the NIS and its intervention in the last presidential election, and many citizens participated in the performance and called for a strong investigation while enjoying music.
Buskers Enjoying Music with the Audience
    At the end of the day, buskers come out into the street to give a musical performance with their musical instruments. They look for a good place where they can play their music and people can sit down and listen to their music freely. They put down their guitar case on the road as a tip box, then they play many songs which they had prepared. They sometimes are off beat and out of tune off, but it does not encumber their performance but rather it becomes part of the music.
    Park Jin-hyun (Freshman, Dept. of Civil Engineering) who is a member of a busking group ‘Streetlight Music’ and plays percussion instruments said, “I want to show people my performance and hope they will listen to my music. That is the only reason why I have busked.” He added when many people listened to his music, he was very happy. Buskers who usually busk around CNU said they perform because they love and enjoy music. Park Jae-hyung (Senior, Dept. of Korean Language and Literature) said the happiest moment while busking is when he receives audience response even when it is not so powerful. “Not long ago, I made some money by performances thanks to the audience. So, I bought some snacks for them, and when I was busking, I handed them out. I am always really thankful to the audience for listening to my music.”
    Regarding the busking culture, Kim Jin-a (Senior, Dep. of Biological Sciences and Technology) said, “I think it is still an unusual thing in local cities, but it can attract my attention. Instead of noisy electronic sounds, buskers who play their musical instruments and sing a song by themselves on the streets make me feel refreshed and infuse life into the dreary city. When people gave a clap to buskers after performing, I saw that all the people including buskers and audience were happy at that time.”
Busking Places and Noise Complaints
    Busking can cause noise problems. Buskers have difficulty in finding proper spots due to noise complaints from residents, particularly around popular busking places. Most buskers based in the city usually have busked in several places; around CNU, near the downtown area in Chungjangro, around Uncheon Reservoir in Sangmoo area, and so on. Park Jae-hyung knows well about these places because he has been busking there for three years. He said, “I usually do busking in the vicinity of CNU. My favorite place is in front of the Museum because the streetlights build up a soft mood while I am busking.” But this place is near many laboratories at CNU, so there are too many complaints from professors and students.
    In some cases, they have busked on the deserted streets. Park Jae-hyung said, “I always play my percussion with eager anticipation for audience response. There have been many noise complaints when we were busking. Even before we started it, the police came and kept us from busking. Whenever these things happened, I felt dejected.” There are times conflicts between buskers and residents can be resolved with the intervention of the police force. For this reason, suitable busking places are limited in Gwangju.
    Because of these problems, buskers seek alternatives, even interior spaces such as cafés and clubs. For example, near CNU, there is ‘Soft Straight Line’ café managed by Park Il-nam. This place is a culture café for young people, and anyone can use this place for any purpose. The owner Park said that he operated the café in order to provide a cultural space with people because there are no enough spaces in the city. “I want to communicate with young people and make this place for life, humans and love. This place is a resting place for anyone. ”
More Communication through Busking
    Buskers can see the reaction of the audience, who can ask the buskers to play songs that they want to hear. Park Jeong-woo (Sophomore, Chosun University) said he thought busking was good because he could experience something different through it. “I love busking because it makes me interact with people on the spot. I like to play guitar, and if I have a chance to busk, I want to do it.” Like this, such a busking culture may have an important implication for our society. Busking is not only a performance but it can be a good way to communicate amongst people. Are you feeling bored or lonely? If so, let’s go outside, participate in a street musical performance and enjoy music with people!
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