The Bards Dance in the Streets … Or At Least On The Sidewalk

By Djinn Shockley

One thing summer time always brings is street performers and July 2012 has been no exception. An evening walk or a drive through the highlands can often provide plenty of unexpected entertainment.

As the sun drops down, the streetlights become spotlights on the simple concrete stage we commonly call a sidewalk. There is no schedule, elaborate stage props, bright lights or billboard signs to announce the presence of local street performers. In some cases, they just stop, drop and entertain because they enjoy performing for passing crowds. Sometimes they just enjoy performing for themselves. To be honest, it is often the latter I find more entertaining, as they are truly at one with their gift.

In July and August, the street becomes a live gallery with a new sound or step every few blocks. From one moment to the next, you may hear an old blues harp reminiscent of the bayou or a cool old cat filling the air with jazzy melodies, thinking back to days long gone.

Sometimes friends cross paths and gather to play hand drums, flutes or guitars. Their melodies often carry positive energy with tribal beats and wandering rhythms. Occasionally someone might even sing or chant a few lines. They all just get lost in the mood and become mesmerized in the moment.

It is not uncommon to see a casually clad belly dancer moving gracefully among the passersby, or swirling between musicians just for fun. Hoola Hoopers are occasionally spotted near certain establishments in the Highlands, too. They tend to play like children twirling about their sparkling hoops, yet they do so with the grace of a cat.

I've even seen the occasional break dancer spinning in a parking lot … which though amusing, actually looked painful. There are also those on the streets that cannot dance … at all … yet they do. These brief but disturbing images are usually caught in passing while stifling a giggle.

The Highlands also has its share of buskers, who can be any of the above. The difference is buskers have fun, gracefully accept tips and have a secret, but traditional, bardic code. Apologies, as I can say no more of it.

Street performers can be dancers, guitarists, drummers or clowns. It doesn't matter as long as they're having fun and people around them are moved by their energy. These modern day bards can often lift or lower someone's mood in a matter of seconds with a well-played note.

Street bards or buskers may not be on a stage in a club, but they don't require one. In some ways they are the true independents, free spirits that still feel what they do and don't play by a set schedule. Next time you see a bard along the street, take a moment and check it out. You may find yourself waking up to a world you never knew existed.