Where there are tourist, street performers will probably be nearby.
The proper name for street performers is a “busker”. Busking is not a new profession, they date back to the medieval ages. Back then, local merchants would invite buskers to perform in front of their stores to attract new business. Now the tables have turned, street performers know where the crowds will be and they transform busy streets into their stage.
I have encountered street performers all over the world. They take to the streets to make their living by entertaining tourists and locals. I have seen a wide array of acts that range from very good almost annoying. The good acts succeed in capturing a large crowd but the annoying acts don’t last very long.
Street performance acts are only limited by the talents of the street performers. I have seen traditional entertainment and some acts that I never would have imagined. In this post, I have put together a wide range of acts that I have seen in my travels.
Musicians are probably the most common street performance acts. The musicians range from wide genre of musical styles from rock and roll to classical with some performances having the audience literally dancing in the streets.
Guitar players can pop up in a minutes notice. They are common to see at festivals, weekend markets and even at scenic viewpoints like in the third photo in the Caribbean.
Small bands are fairly common to see and they can set up in tight spaces. The three bands below that I feature are on a bridge, on a sidewalk and on the sea wall.
Some of the musicians that I have seen play instruments that are not as common for street performers have been the violin, accordion, bagpipes, saxophone and trumpet although in the context they are probably normal.
One of my personal favorites has been the violin player balancing on a not so tight rope. It still looked like it was difficult to play without falling and he was entertaining.
Artists don’t make much noise but they can still draw a small crowd to watch them create their works. Some artist sell their art and others draw caricature of the tourist for a price.
Dancers are very popular especially if they are doing an unusual style of dancing. Two examples of this are stilt dancing and breakdancing.
Jugglers and Magicians
Jugglers and magicians are unique performers because the crowd is closely watching every move that they make. Jugglers are like watching a circus act in the streets. Some juggles toss three different objects of different sizes and weights while balancing on a ball or roller. Pretty impressive!
Magicians are normally seen on TV where you can only see what you are shown but in the streets the magic is right in front of your eyes and it really looks amazing. The magician in the photos below cut the rope into pieces and then magically it was one rope again. Amazing!
Other Street Performers
Some of the other street performers that I have seen range from creative, strange, unusual, dangerous and then other do very little or even nothing at all.
Bubble makers are really popular with the children. I have seen several bubble makers in the parks and plazas with small children chasing the bubbles trying to burst the bubble.
Contortionist fall into the strange category. It looks painful and sometimes we want to close our eyes but at the same time we can’t keep our eyes off what they are doing.
Pole Flyers is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony still performed today. It is a little different than most street performances because they require a secure pole but they perform for tips just like other street performers. Watching these men twirl down from a tall pole suspended by a rope is one of the most unusual acts that I have seen.
Fire Eating is probably the most dangerous acts that I have witnessed. Seeing a man pick up a flaming piece of coal with his hand, place it in his mouth and then swallow it with smoke coming out of his mouth is not something that I would have ever expected to watch. This is one of those performances that makes me wonder why anyone would do it and how did it get started.
From one extreme to the other, singing and motionless statues goes from high action and danger to as little motion as possible. Singers can be energetic but some aren’t into showmanship.
Statue performers normally dress in an unusual outfit then paint themselves in a solid color to make themselves appear like a statue. Holding motionless is their main goal. They will only move when prompted by someone placing a tip into their hat or to surprise someone when they get too close while inspecting them.
A twist on the statue performer is to be motionless while doing something that looks impossible. Some performers get in unusual positions and remain motionless while others work in pairs to perform a seemingly superhuman act.
Not all street performer have the best acts. In the photo below, I will give the artist an “A” for effort but an “F” for execution. He was all in with the red paint from head to toe but his trick was lacking in being convincing.
I have often wondered if street performers were ever told to leave the area. I think it depends on the city, what they are doing and where they are performing.
There is a range of acceptance within cities. Some cities encourage street performers and actually incorporate the entertainment into the city experience. They schedule performances at key locations to provide free entertainment for visitors.
Other cities are more restrictive. They require permits for performers, restrict street performers from certain areas but some cities allow performers to do as they want as long as they do not violate any city laws, statues or ordinances.
Many street performers are very good at their performance and most of them enhance the atmosphere of the places where they perform. Some of the shows that I have seen have been so unforgettable that I still remember seeing the performance and I liked some of the musicians so much that I bought the CD that they were selling.
I typically enjoy all of my travel experiences and buskers can be an unexpected experience that enhances my overall travel experience. They actually become part of the environment that I remember from the place where I watch their performance.
Not all places where I have visited have buskers so sometimes I am left to improvise and create my own entertainment. In Curacao, I found an unattended bongo with a bird band and I just had to see what it would be like to be a busker. In case you were wondering, drawing a crowd is harder than it looks!