Wednesday, July 15, 2009

'If at first..'

Lankandia Cissoko is a Senegalese kora player. Like the previous kora player I'd run across on the Subway, Salieu Suso from the Gambia, he's a griot or storyteller, and, with a long family history behind him, has been playing on the New York system for a number of years. I saw him today, with a sizeable crowd, at the 42nd Street spot.


Today was the first time since I've started this project that I had to admit defeat. I was actually beaten back by sheer noise.

I went to Jackson Heights this morning, to the Roosevelt Avenue station. I stood on the platform for about 15 minutes before I realized that playing there was just going to be completely impractical. During almost that whole time, there was barely a minute where there weren't trains pulling in, idling, or pulling out.

I've played at a lot of busy platforms, and usually you get some respite, some gap within the natural flow of the train traffic. This, though, just seemed completely f*cked up. I could hardly hear myself think, let alone play anything.

So I came back downtown to 8th Street, the home of the NYU campus; what I thought might be an appreciative audience; my, er, peeps.

Yeah, right.

I played for just over an hour; relatively quiet station, but it wasn't a fertile acre. The folks who came onto the platform wouldn't even come near where I was standing. Of those who did, I got a couple of smiles - from younger people - but just as many condescending eye-rolls and heavy sighs from slightly older passengers.

You know what? We're all entitled to our opinion. If you don't like what I'm playing - or any musician on the Subway - what's the longest you have to put up with it? Two, maybe three minutes? Is that too much?

I guess for some people it is, and for that, I apologize. Sorry it's not a string quartet. The station does have some really niceish mosaics, though.

Not to worry. I dealt with getting nothing in the case by riding a little further downtown and doing a second set for another hour at Canal Street, where I haven't played for a while. Had to give more directions today, because the Q train wasn't running, but I ended up with $2.88 (running total now $60.88).

8th Street:

When You Say Nothing At All - Alison Krauss
Mexico - James Taylor
Roxanne - The Police
People Get Ready - Curtis Mayfield
Bad Karma - Warren Zevon
Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan
The Lakes Of Pontchartrain - Paul Brady
May You Never - John Martyn
When The Stars Go Blue - Ryan Adams
Waiting For My Real Life To Begin - Colin Hay
You Got Lucky - Tom Petty
Rosalita - Bruce Springsteen

Canal Street:

Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan
The Only Living Boy In New York - Paul Simon
You're The World To Me - David Gray
People Get Ready - Curtis Mayfield
I Want You Back - Jackson Five
Waitin' On The World To Change - John Mayer
Roxanne - The Police
Sweetheart Like You - Bob Dylan
The Ties That Bind - Bruce Springsteen
Galway Girl - Steve Earle
Peace Love And Understanding - Elvis Costello


On my way home, I passed Calebe Arruda at the tunnel to the Times Square shuttle, and I ran into these guys again.

But of course with my usual impeccable timing, I surfaced back in Brooklyn only to find my phone going nuts with Tweets and texts about this...

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