Street Performers/ Buskers
Busking can be the bottom rung of the entertainment industry. Some of the most famous groups and superstars started their careers as buskers. Examples include Joan Baez, Roni Benise, The Blue Man Group, Pierce Brosnan, Jimmy Buffett, George Burns, Cirque du Soleil, Eric Clapton, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Stephane Grappelli, Bob Hope, Jewel, Steve Martin, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Dolly Parton, Penn & Teller, Gerry Rafferty, Carlos Santana, Simon and Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, Stomp, and Robin Williams. Many other buskers have also found fame and fortune.
Interestingly, San Francisco City Administration has given full recognition to street performers as no other city might have done. Here is an extract from their notification on Street Performer program:
The Port of San Francisco welcomes Street Musicians and Street Performers to Fisherman’s Wharf. Live performances make a positive contribution to the culture and ambience of the Wharf. The Fisherman’s Wharf Pilot Street Performer Program will be in effect from November 1, 2007. The Program covers the Port’s public access areas between the western edge of Pier 41 to Hyde Street and from the southern side of the Jefferson Street sidewalk to The Embarcadero and the Bay.
The purpose of this Program is to manage the time, place, and manner of use of the 12 designated performance locations. The Guidelines and are set to ensure fair and equitable access for all performers while not interfering with the safe day-to-day operation of the Wharf. It is not mandatory to obtain a license to express yourself on Port property.
This Program encourages all performers to participate in the Program. Street Musicians and Street Performers (“Performers”) are not required to audition or obtain a license to perform at the Wharf
The Program serves Street Performers including musicians, mimes, magicians, jugglers, human statues, dancers, and other forms of expression and any other activity protected by the First Amendment. It does not include non-permitted merchandise vendors. Nor does it include Street Artists who already have a permit program with the SF Arts Commission.
Two films, one produced in England (The Street Singer – 1937) and the other in India (Street Singer – 1938) have done the greatest honor to street performers:
The Street Singer: In this British musical, the trouble begins when a performer has a tiff with his singing partner during a show and ends up running away. He is costumed as a beggar and in this guise encounters a kindly orphan who has been raised by a former magician. Seeing his ragged clothing, she pities him and brings him home for a hot meal. The performer realizes that in the face of the poverty she and the magician suffer with daily, he is truly a lucky man. Later he falls in love with the orphan girl and makes her his new partner.
Street Singer: New Theatres, Calcutta produced film tells the story of two childhood friends, Bhulwa and Manju, who grow up to become street singers in Calcutta. Bhulwa dreams of becoming a stage star but it is Manju who succeeds. At the height of her fame Manju almost forgets Bhulwa until at the end – in an obviously symbolic landscape (literary showing a boat washed ashore in a storm) the two are united.
The two films have one thing common, they both had the greatest singers of their time as their leading men – Arthur Tracy and K. L. Saigal. The celebrated Street Singer on radio and recordings in 1930s and 40s, Arthur Tracy, reading about Fraderick Lonsdale play called The Street Singer, decided to adopt that as his identity. In 1931 he made his radio debut under that name and his autobiography is also titled The Street Singer. K. L. Saigal was a legend of his time whose every song in 1930s and 40s was a super hit song. His all time hit song from the film Street Singer – Babul mora naihar to chhuto jaaye – achieved immortality.
Hats off to the street performers. May their hats be full of money when they take them around after their performance.