It takes a lot of nerve to walk out on the street with an instrument in hand and start playing and singing for everyone to hear. But what about hopping on a plane and walking out onto the streets of a totally foreign city to do the same? That takes more than nerve – that takes cojones. Californian busker Albert Khalbourji did just that when he flew to Ireland with only one thing in mind: to share his music. Along the way, he had more than his fair share of adventures, which he recounts for youbloom here in A Californian in Dublin: Travels of a Busker.
Busking in Dublin
I arrived in Dublin from England on the 15th of March ready to busk my heart away! I had my guitar and harmonica and my handy dandy backpack. I was determined to start playing as soon as I got off the rather short flight but the weather was against me. It was extremely cold. In California, where I’m from, the weather had never affected my busking, so this was new. I headed off to Blessington, the place I would call home for the next two weeks!
I left the shop with my guitar and walked through the beautiful St. Stephen’s Green Park. I thought I had seen a lot of green in England but Ireland is engulfed with nature!
The next time I went to Dublin was St. Patrick’s Day. The weather was beautiful and the sun was shining brighter than I had seen in awhile! I figured I would go into town and play on Grafton Street. On the bus to Dublin I met this nice lady named Ciara who struck up a conversation about music with me. We were talking about all sorts of bands, most of whom I’ve never heard, but then we got onto the topic of why I was in Ireland. Why hadn’t I stayed in sunny California? The truth was, I was determined to share my music with the world and what better place to take my folky acoustic style to than Ireland!? I didn’t end up busking on St. Patrick’s Day, opting instead to hang out with some great Irish people and celebrate a great holiday!
No one turned their heads to listen, but that was something I was used to; not everyone has time to listen. The world is changing, people are continuously on the move.
I was starting to get the hang of taking the bus into Dublin (might I add the buses have Wifi!?). Today was the day I would go into town and busk my heart away. I arrived in Dublin and went to a sandwich shop. I can’t recall the name, but they made fantastic sandwiches. I didn’t know what I wanted so I told them to surprise me! And they did! It was called a California Chicken – an amazing sandwich. I left the shop with my guitar and walked through the beautiful St. Stephen’s Green Park. I thought I had seen a lot of green in England but Ireland is engulfed with nature!
One thing I noticed while I was in Ireland is that the people are very caring and they appreciate good music!
I found myself on Grafton street and felt intimidated by the many passing people. I made my way to the pub from the night before and found a little flower stand set up outside. I built up some courage and started to play my guitar little ways away from the flowers. No one turned their heads to listen, but that was something I was used to; not everyone has time to listen. The world is changing, people are continuously on the move. And my acoustic guitar is just too quiet without its amp, meaning I can only play so loud before the sound gets jumbled. Sometimes I will sing but I usually play the harmonica instead. I think it can be agreed that it’s louder and more attractive than my voice!
On the night of the 20th, I missed my bus back to Blessington so I had to stay in Dublin with nothing but my guitar.
The flower lady came up to me and told me to move to a better spot, one she was pointing at, a spot where people would hear me better. One thing I noticed while I was in Ireland is that the people are very caring and they appreciate good music! I began to play and blow my heart into my harmonica and I made my first euro! It’s always exciting to make the first quid. After an hour or so, the weather became more frigid and my fingers froze! Busking in Ireland or England – or anywhere cold, really – takes a lot of willpower. It’s tough just to get up and go outside, nevermind stand in the cold and play. I do a little jig as I play, just to stay warm.
On the night of the 20th, I missed my bus back to Blessington so I had to stay in Dublin with nothing but my guitar.I roamed Grafton street busking from one pub to another because I ran out of money. But I noticed that I made more money when people were drunk, which perhaps is no surprise. People enjoyed my music and I enjoyed their company. As time went on, the colder it became. I wandered around looking for a place to sit because it had begun to rain. I found a shop that was out of the way of the weather and set myself up. I sat and waited til the sunrise came. Not long after the that I got up and started my day. Busking on Grafton street was really an experience I will never forget.
It was like I was lucky the whole time I was there.
One thing that helped me along my journey was carrying my guitar with me all the time. Not only did I get to play but people always seemed shocked that it’s not in a case. I’ve had people in a pub ask me to play a song, so I play something funny like Piano Man on guitar. The whole place starts singing. I’ve even gotten to play a few songs at a pub because the bartender struck up a conversation about my music. All in all, busking around Ireland was very fun and successful. I learned a lot about myself and I can’t wait to go back! It was like I was lucky the whole time I was there.
**Are your cojones the size of Albert’s? Could you busk your way around a city halfway around the world? Have you done it already? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.