More than once have I encountered a variety of enjoyable musical performances in Beijing, either while going through an underground crossing or entering a subway station. Underground tunnels often provide booming acoustics, and although only a few of the pedestrians who walk by drop in gratuities, the musician’s presence is always appreciated.
This weekend however, I encountered a new type of busker that had moved their singing and instrumental talent into a much more focused vicinity and closer proximity to the audience: the subway cars themselves. Not once, but twice in the past two days I encountered guitarists making their way up and down the train on Subway Line 10, crooning and strumming sweet tunes. Though this type of busking is commonplace in other major cities such as New York, this was my first time experiencing this in Beijing.
What are passengers expected to do in a setting where the busker’s bag is literally inches away and the musician stays by their sides for a few minutes at a time? The pressure to give a tip is much higher than when you have the choice of walking past quickly. After all, the common idiom is out of sight, out of mind.
The New York Times recently published an article about responsibly acting as a citizen of the world, suggesting a “right” way to help out citizens in developing countries. Though the article’s focus was about how to act while traveling, giving tips is still worth thinking about while living overseas. As buskers begin to take up residence on the subway, however, passengers should tip if they find themselves enjoying the music accompanying their commute. Half of a busker’s incentive, after all, is their passion for music – music that I found myself tapping my foot to and reaching into my pocket for last weekend.
Annie Wang is 17 years old. A former International School of Beijing student, she currently boards at Choate Rosemary Hall in the US, while her parents still base themselves in Beijing. Annie loves good food, finding new places to explore, and her favorite subject in school is English.