feature: subway symphonies – musicians bring people together

April 15, 2014

A universal language that transcends all walks of life in the world, it speaks to more than your ears, tiptoes into a person’s heart, creeps into the soul and does a spiritual dance. Music is what feelings sound like. It finds ways to rebirth memories, aids with putting the present to rest and has the strength to make the sternest face smile. Heroic harmonies no emperor on this planet has come close to touching, and they’ll be foolish to try. The saying goes; music can calm a beast, which has been proven certain. It calms the largest beast in the world, one of the largest populated cities, New York City! A huge metropolis that is home to millions of people and a getaway for millions more. Where strangers meet daily, with awkward yet friendly smiles, and never meet again. Disconnect is common. This beast of a city filled often with disengaged people is all connected by the underground arteries and overhead railway capillaries that is the MTA NYC subway system. It’s the roaring belly of the beast that all people of the city use for travel, but many times while racing to your next destination you get blessed with music from a subway musician, and it makes you smile, makes you think of a happy place, and sometimes the disconnected, impatient subway rider slows their stride, to take in the rhythm of a drum.

By Queen, AFROPUNK Contributor *

This is a scene from the Red Bull documentary ‘What Difference Does It Make’
Click here to watch if you’re on a mobile device
Full documentary streaming here

They are everywhere throughout the vast subway system, the musicians that bring nice solace to an otherwise, hot, chaotic and sometimes annoying commute. They are the soundtrack to New York City, and without a doubt carve personality into the stone walls of train stations and subway corridors. If the sounds could be visualized, it would appear as sheets of colorful music notes. These musician from all over the world, come to the New York City subway and make it their stage collectively performing for millions a day. It is the Madison Square Garden of the underground, literally. The passion is real, the love is real, and their commitment to their stage and audience is real! Music creates life in places that you would never expect, these subways musicians are the roses growing out of concrete, giving birth to beautiful thing in places highly unexpected.

Photo via

In the documentary What Difference does it Make, a Film about Making Music, subway musician Leroy Webb is asked what music means to him. His answer, which he gives in song, is a soulful expression that you can definitely feel in your bones, great guitar riffs, mixed with silky crooning (see video above). The overtone of his piece in the documentary is his answer to the question about him being discovered, and he replies “cause I didn’t want to be discovered, I just love doing what I do” very simple answer that speaks volumes. He’s been around executives who have wanted to tap into his talent, but that isn’t the life for him “I’m my own man, I can’t be bought with money, all I wanna do is give people, honey.” A musician and his music have to be one of the greatest love affairs ever witnessed. This is what makes the subway musician a staple; they remind us that true love actually still exists. In a film that is largely about the music industry the most memorable part is the four minutes spent with Leroy Webb.

Subway musicians are symbols of hope, desire and reminders of love, and innocence. There is purity in watching an artist sit solely, comfortable with their art, no flashing lights or huge music studios. It heightens your senses, and makes you pay attention, a musician like Leroy Webb reminds us what music is all about, its really a synonym for pure emotion. They give us pathways back to acting like humans, and less like robots. The ticket is only $2.50, and I’m sure we all appreciate it.

Photo via

Photo via

* Queen’s blog:
Instgram and Twitter: @TheQueenSpeaks_