“Subway Beats: Celebrating New York City Buskers” by Kurt Boone

ABSTRACT: Immerse yourself in the raw energy and enthusiasm of New York City subway buskers with over 200 photos of the performers who entertain New York’s passengers in Subway Beats: Celebrating New York City Buskers. From makeshift stages in Times Square where MTA music banners are hung to subway station platforms and cars throughout the city, these performers collectively express the soul of the Big Apple while entertaining thousands of commuters and visitors daily. 





Kurt Boone Launches Subway Beats in NYC
Kurt Boone Launches Subway Beats in NYC

Davi Briggs: You’re currently working on a book called Subway Beats – Celebrating NY Buskers how did that project start?

Kurt Boone: Subway Beats came to me when I decided I needed to take something from MTA and my job as foot messenger riding all the subway lines around city over 16 years to explain to friends and relatives that this was my job. Riding the subway around the city to pick up and deliver packages. I thought about what I could take from MTA that would be significant and interesting.

I thought about taking an official subway sign and hanging it in my apartment. Which a lot people do already. Then it occurred to me that I was seeing an increasing busking scene of Subway Musicians performing in trains station around the city. In addition I had just bought a Canon digital camera off rewards points from my Ebay Now messenger job and wanted to shoot some pictures.

So I came up with this idea to shoot 50 subway musicians as a personal gift for being a foot messenger who travel across the city for over 16 years. These photos were to be proof that I actually wrote all the trains line picking up and delivering packages, that I could show friends and family. So the first couple of week I started photographing subway musicians I accomplish my goal and photograph 50 different performers.

This blew my mind and I said to myself wow. What did I just do ?

In addition to me being a professional courier I was also a freelance writer and had self publish 9 books on the urban experience in America. Primarily writing poetry and rough essays. From those first 50 photos I said to myself this could be a good book project. So I came up with a title for the book project and called it Subway Beats. Then I decide to publish a blog called Subway Beats to showcase some of my photos. Now, three and half years later Subway Beats is now in bookstores.

Ebony Hillbillies in Subway Beats

Davi Briggs: What inspires you about MTA or NYC buskers?

Kurt Boone: Upon seeing and hearing the many different kinds of musicians in New York City busking scene. The variety of these musicians genres inspired me to want to document the scene in photographs and show how this musical community mirror New York City diversity itself.

Davi Briggs: What do you hope people take-away from this book?

Kurt Boone: What I hope readers take away from reading Subway Beats is why I did the book. And that is to showcase the diversity of the people of New York City and there music. There are photographs of over 250 different subway performers playing many music genres. In addition to Subway Beats being documentary book about busking in New York. Schiffer Publishing also did a great graphic design for the book that makes the book exciting to read and hold in your hand, as a hardcover edition. Making Subway Beats truly a special book that comes with a fantastic price that is affordable for everyone.

Davi Briggs: You, yourself, identify as a bard and poet. As a creative individual, how do you relate to the NYC busking community?

Kurt Boone: As a New York City poet. I thrive off vibe of the city and it’s people. New York City is one of the most diverse city of people and cultures on earth. If not thee city for diversity. So being a poet I can relate to buskers as artists and performers that love New York City as much as I do. Not so much in a poem but in a song or beat. As I try to reflect on the busking scene in New York City with a poem in the book call “Music In The Tunnels” .

NYC Subway Buskers in Subway Beats

Davi Briggs: You’ve talked a lot about wanting to celebrate urban life. In doing that, what ideas or pieces of NYC culture are you hoping to share with your audience?

Kurt Boone: In “Subway Beats: Celebrating New York City Buskers” I am specifically showcasing buskers in New York City. As I have written about being a messenger and how I see city the through lens of being a messenger crossing the streets of the five borough of New York City – Staten Island, Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. All is not fair in the idea of the American Dream. My ancestors were slaves and so I grew up disadvantage as it’s relate to wealthy sector of New York City.

So in many of my urban poems I try to speak truth to power. I don’t use profanity in my verse but I sure tell it like it is. As I invite readers to consider reading my urban poety books. Looking For MyselfUrban Theory: Critical Thoughts In America co-authored with Noreen Mallory, The Skyscraper Shuffle and my memoir Asphalt Warrior were I clearly explain my thoughts about urban life in New York City and America at large.


Davi Briggs: You’ve also talked about poetry as outlet. How has poetry and your other creative works helped you to grow as a person? Have these projects changed the way you look at or interact with the world?

Kurt Boone: Poetry has been outlet for me for over 30 years, since writing poems started for me in high school. One of the way poetry help me was I could put anger and disillusionment with the so-called American Dream on paper. Drugs and crime were problems in Cambria Heights a middle class African American community I grew up in New York City. So writing about my peers and what my generation was going through in poetry and essay. I thought serve as an historical record of my generation. Just like Langston Hughes or James Baldwin wrote about there generation. I wrote about my generation. Living in a media rich city like New York you hear and read about events all over the world. That sense of living in a global city inspired me to write and be creative in my words that also inspires other to do the same.

In Subway Beats I have been given the opportunity to showcase a part of NewYork City that too often than not don’t get acknowledge for there contribution to arts and culture of New York City. As I can’t express enough how many times I would hear subway musicians performing at a train stop that would make an otherwise exhausting and ready to go home day and turn it into a exciting day by hearing some good music that has just made your commute great again. Now that’s poetry in real life.