Friday Conundrum: Busker Funk

Courtesy Joey Pasco at

Yesterday, I was riding uptown on the number 1 train, or the IRT as those of us old enough to recall New York when it was worse (and we liked it that way) sometimes refer to it, when a group of Mexican buskers boarded my car and favored us all with a little musica. Now I always enjoy an impromptu concert during my commute and generally tip the performers to say thanks; yesterday’s trip was no exception.

But as they strummed and sang, it occurred to me that, as far as I could tell, they were singing exactly the same song that every Mexican group I have ever heard on the subway performs. You know the one — it’s an up-tempo, cheery number that’s rendered on a couple of guitars, occasionally accompanied by an accordion, and it usually features two vocalists. This one:

So what I’m wondering is this. Do they all really sing the same song, or do I just think so because I don’t speak Spanish and am completely tone deaf? Maybe it’s easier to dance if you only have one song or it could be that’s why so many musicians come here — to expand their repertoire.


About WSW

Writer, wife, mother. Toiler in the bottomless, black, soul-sucking coal mine of domestic life. Thank God for the portable bar.

Posted on June 29, 2012, in Music, The Slattern Speaks, Weird Weird Weird and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I’m still laughing, my mother thinks they all sound the same, too. I told her that it just seemed that way, they are singing different songs. I have to tell you you thought they all sang the same tune, too. (I also miss the NYC from a couple of decades ago.)

  2. Make it stop, Mommy! The music…it burns my ears!

  3. Thank you for your kind words regarding subway musicians! I play in the subway and I know many of the other buskers. I am sure it is not the same song – it would be too boring for the musicians to play the same song so many times…
    If you see me in the subway come say hi!

  4. Having grown up in Cali and heard my fair share of Mexican radio, I’d venture a guess that the songs are different, though sound all to similar to one another.

    I will say that one time in Amsterdam I came across two kids playing guitar on the street and quickly realized that they are only playing a 1/3 of some song on repeat…because they didn’t know how to play anything else. Well I gave them some coinage, asked if I could play for them, and for about 2 minutes became one of those street performers. I say 2 minutes, because a resident kicked us off the corner for being to “loud.”

  5. I’m flying to nyc on Monday to spend a few days with my daughter. I’m going to be jealous if there isn’t anyone singing on the #6 local.

  6. It’s the same song. You see they all go to Mariachi High and learn the song. Then they are strategically placed in subways around the country. I like the use of the term busker. Reminds of a book Buskin’ With H. Allen Smith,

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