What do you think about ‘Busking’? Is it just a way for earning money or one of the true arts? In the foreign countries where busking is common, people accept it as true art, and they respect buskers’ performances. However, in Korea people show different responses to busking because it is not a familiar culture and people don’t understand it yet. For complete understanding about busking, let’s see basic knowledge of busking and foreign countries’ busking culture.
What is Busking?
‘Busking’ refers to the practice of performing music in a public place and asking for money from people passing by. Because it is street performance, it is hard to imagine scenes like in a concert or TV show. Buskers don’t need much equipment and use only their simple instruments. Some buskers don’t even use microphones. In this way, performers communicate with audiences. To a performer who highly regards communication with the audience, busking is a good means.
Busking was introduced to Korea by movies and singers. ‘Once’ is a representative movie related to busking. ‘Once’ is an Irish independent film. The movie tells a story of one man who achieved his desire in music through busking. Because the main character is a busker, you can often see the scene of busking. This movie gained a lot of popularity in Korea. It was a good chance to introduce busking in Korea.
The movie ‘August Rush’ is also a box office success in which a boy’s brilliant guitar playing scene is well known. Also, you can see him busking for money. These two movies filled Koreans with curiosity about busking. After this, the band ‘Busker Busker’ made people interested to participate in busking. They began achieving renown by appearing on ‘Superstar K’, a representative Korean audition show, and now they are active as singers. They participated in the audition for introducing their busking, and they were loved by the audience. Their band’s name, ‘Busker Busker’ is also made by repeating the word ‘busker’, one who performs on the street. Their intention was right. People began to show an interest and understand not only their activities but busking itself.
Busking in Foreign Countries
Busking has become popular in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and so on. Ireland is the background of movie ‘Once’. Ireland prohibits the shopping district from turning on some music for the sake of legal busking culture. There are some countries which require a license issued by the city for performance. Also, some countries and cities set a place and time for the busking. However, it is pretty easy to acquire a license and sanctions are not heavy.
While most Korean street performers use guitars, those in foreign countries use various instruments: guitar, keyboard, saxophone, accordion, drums, cello, violin, and so on. People of all ages perform on the streets.
Busking in Korea
Korea’s busking is mostly held in Seoul. Representative places are around Hongik University, Insa-dong, the Cheonggyecheon, Daehak-ro, Marronnier Park, and so on. In particular, many buskers visit around Hongik University. This place has been introduced to the public in many TV dramas and films. Besides Seoul, Busan is a city where buskers perform. Unlike foreign countries, it is difficult to find other cultural performances except music. Some buskers play djembe and ocarina, but guitar dominates in Korea. With the rising curiosity about busking, though, many films which talk about busking have been made, for example, ’Play’ and ‘What Do You Do?’
Since almost all musicians want to perform in a perfect stage setting, busking is a performing way that lesser-known musicians choose. Korea’s famous singer Moon-se Lee said he never sang songs on a non-perfect stage. But even some famous musicians use street performance to communicate with audiences. For example, Yngwei Malmsteen in Sweden, James Morrison in the United Kingdom, and Damien Rice in Ireland are representative musicians. Yngwei Malmsteen is a world-famous guitarist. He created baroque metal and is called the king of baroque metal. James Morrison is a British popular singer who won the grand prize at the Brit Awards. To receive this award proves how popular a singer he is in Britain.
In Korea, there are Lim Jeong-hee, 10cm, and Busker Busker. Lim Jeong-hee is especially widely known for busking. She has performed since before she made a debut. Unlike that of foreign countries, though, famous Korean musicians’ busking is less active.
Korean people have recognition that the busking culture came from foreign countries. But do not conclude that, because busking is also one of Korea’s traditional features. The Korean movie ‘King and the Clown’ shows a performance scene in which actors hold ‘madangnori’. Since ancient times, madangnori (traditional Korean outdoor performances) that earned money by performing anywhere on the street were a very universal thing. There is little difference between Madangnori and busking. The different is just the type of instrument they use. By extension, if you see the matter from another angle, Korean madangnori is closer to busking than the Western theater culture. If we make an effort to understand and to appreciate busking culture, people will recognize street performance as a true art and more various performances will be held in Korea.