Pinoy busker plays music under NYC

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Nov. 6, 2014

BROOKLYN, NY – The New York City subway is home to hundreds of aspiring artists and performers. More than 350 soloists, provides 7,500 annual performances at 30 locations throughout the transit system. But there’s one singer/songwriter that is not your usual subway performer or busker.

Miko De Leon is Filipino American and the Lorimer subway station platform in Brooklyn, New York is his stage.

De Leon is a musician and for years he has performed all over New York City. He was the lead vocalist in a band called “Miko and the Musket.”

But last summer, on a whim, he decided to go busking for an hour on a subway platform near his home.

“I made like 30 bucks. I didn’t have any expectations but that definitely wasn’t in line with my expectations, making anywhere near that kind of money,” said De Leon.

On a good day, Miko says he makes about $140 in about three to four hours which he spends for music equipment.

“Somebody wraps a quarter with a dollar bill, they toss it over the tracks actually both times it landed landed in my guitar case,” Miko said. “To have somebody make that effort, that for me is the most gratifying thing.”

But like many buskers, Miko has a day job.

“It’s economic in a way,” he said. “It’s part of their income, some depend on it more so than others. I know people who do this full time. I talked to people who literally, this is what they do — they play for as long as they need to in terms of making their rent or whatever it is. It’s pretty admirable.”

Street performers like him perform in the subways not only to make extra income but to hone their craft and get instant feedback from passengers.

“Who knows? Somebody there waiting might be somebody in the industry, or another musician who wants to work with you, and that’s something that I’ve learned a lot,” Miko said. “I wanna capitalize on every moment.”

Subway busking for gratuity is legal in the Big Apple and it is protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

Some buskers may require a city permit for popular spots such as the Time Square Station’s mezzanine.

But Miko says street performers experience police harassment quite frequently.

Last month, a busker he knows was arrested by a New York City police officer for playing in the subway. The officer banged his guitar on the wall – all captured on video by a bystander.

Miko said, “There are other things in this world that I think law enforcers should focus on more than a street performer not really bothering anybody.”

But still, Miko says subway busking is worth it.

“Just to be able to share what I enjoy and what I love is so valuable, not a lot of people can say that,” said Miko.

He says busking contributed so much to his life in a lot of ways and he has no plans of stopping anytime soon.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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