Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Trumpetist Fernando Ferrarone playing jazz in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, New York City. April 1st, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

As long as there have been streets in New York, there have been street performers. Buskers, as they are usually called, had been part of the city landscape for centuries, bringing live music to the citizens even before theaters existed. But they were probably never as important as they are now.  

When the pandemic hit and the city was taken by an uneasy silence, street musicians were the ones who kept the show going on what has always been their most eloquent and biggest stage: the city itself – and that means both above and below the ground. 

For many of them it was a matter of survival: without their gigs due to closure of the usual venues, they turned to streets and subway stations to keep playing their instruments and showing their art.  

That was a big turning point: many of them not only started making more money busking than playing in bars, theaters and festivals but also attracted new fans among the spontaneous crowd that now gathers around them. 

And, most of all, like that band that kept playing on while the Titanic was sinking, they filled the city with zest and hope amidst one of the darkest times of its history. 

Andrew Kalleen has been carrying his piano all over the city. Here he is on Washington Square Park, New York City. February 5, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Joe Mayer plays the fiddle in The Brooklyn Bards, a band that plays a mix of Irish musich and classic rock every week in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York. April 23, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Wayne Walcott playing jazz in the Broadway-Lafayette subway station, New York City. January 27, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Flutist playing in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York City. April 23, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Percussionist performing in the 14th subway station, New York City. February 19, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Haitian musican Alegba Jahyile and his band, Alegba and Friends, plays Latin music in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York City. April 23, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Robert Leslie is a British-born guitarist and songwriter who plays his own songs in many subway stations across the city. Here he is in Metropolitan Avenue station, Brooklyn, New York City. February 19, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Drummer Rob Montemarano, member of The Brooklyn Bards, a band that plays a mix of Irish music and classic rock every week in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York. April 23, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Trumpetist Fernando Ferrarone and bassist Bob Bruya playing jazz in the guitarist Marco Grispo’s band in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, New York City. April 1st, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Saxophonist performing in Washington Square Park, New York City. February 5, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

Street musician playing the cajón and singing in Andrew Kalleen’s band in Washington Square Park, New York City. February 5, 2021. Photo by Xavier Bartaburu

 


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