Gypsy Street Musicians

Gypsy street musicians pass through my neighborhood from time to time – but less and less frequently. I always hear them playing their pasodobles before seeing them. They typically go from block corner to block corner trying to get the most “angle” for their performance.

Long ago, they usually consisted of a 3 or 4-person group; one trumpet, one tambourine, one accordion, and one woman who collects the money while spying half-hidden, entertained spectators in their windows above. The woman would always be keen of eye and with her body language would force you to pony-up a coin for having listened with lingering interest. Sometimes the group would have an animal who would do tricks while the music played.

Nowadays, the gypsy band is more like a 1-Man-Band, a single fellow who’s wheeling around a kind of cart which holds a car battery, large speaker, and a synthesizer keyboard. The man hits a button which starts the rhythm and he then plays the melody by hand. Now THAT’S progress for you.

The last several days I’ve heard them in my neighborhood but they never came to my corner. Too bad. I had the camera and coin at hand, too! My afterthought was that the neighbors wouldn’t be happy with my encouragement should they come because then the gypsy band would know they had an paying customer here and the “noise” might bother the neighbors.

Rarely on the streets will you see more than one or two people actually stopping to listen to the gypsy musicians. Most hurry along their way because they’re truly in a hurry, are bored, bothered, don’t want to pay, or don’t trust the gypsies. Whatever the case, these street musicians don’t make much money doing this, that’s for sure.

These days, the street musicians you find in downtown Madrid are not gypsies anymore. They’re most likely from Romania, Andean Latin American, or you might even catch the roving Mariachi band in the Puerta del Sol which makes frequent appearances and gains LARGE crowds. I often wonder about the latter band, wonder if the tourists think, “Ah yess… I’M IN SPAIN NOW!” – not realizing this is a MEXICAN band and has little or nothing to do with Spain itself. Along the same lines, how many times have I seen high school tour groups in Madrid (usually from the USA) and more than one of them is wearing a Mexican sombrero! Good Gawd.

Saludos, MadridMan

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