THE SOUNDS OF A CITY: Musicos Callejeros of Folk, Pop and Classics



Performances are a clearly  recognisable urban art form not a nuisance,
the life and soul of Madrid’s hectic streets

By Anisah Hilali
Photos: A. Hilali


A  hotpot of culture art and history, Madrid is full of never ending surprises and performances. One may think in such a lively bustling city peaceful classical music could only be found in formal venues such as the famous Teatro Real and the bandstand in Buen Retiro Park. This is far from the truth! Despite Madrid’s energy there lay many musical street performers offering  pockets of serenity where they play. These dedicated musicians are commonly heard in Plaza Mayor in all its medieval beauty and Puerto del Sol, the heart of Spain. However, this is of course a non exhaustive list, they are too in other dense parts of the bright and extravagant city, even making for a sight in some Metro stations.

Violinist in the Metro station

Violinist in the Metro station

The classical music itself ranges from the use of instruments such as the violin or ‘fidula’ by some of the artists, performing some of the great classics of Mozart to the more modern pieces, including the soundtrack of Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the Titanic.

The use of the accordion is also a popular choice, but it is usually not a solo feat! Groups of artists are occasionally accompanied by a rich operatic barritone, with each melody complimenting a voice filling the streets with a Pavarotti-esque performance for no price at all!

Amongst the crowds and performers of more well known classical tunes, traditional folk music is also rendereded by artists  in the form of Mariachi, a true treat to any onlookers! Around Madrid, particularly in Sol, a number of Mariachi Bands put on lively performances even inviting members of the audience to join in the fiesta allowing them to wear their sombreros and sing along on various days of the week. Madrid puts its own Spanish flair into classical performances, making them an enjoyable experience for anyone involved whether walking past or stopping to hear the music.

From the outside looking in to this astounding and liberal city, the open acceptance of street artists or “musicos callejeros” as they are known in Spain draws sharp contrast to other nations where such performances are usually put down to nuisances and ignored altogether or looked upon with disdain. The Madrilenos in fact openly sustain the street musicians with their support and continued feeding performances. Furthermore there are no specific laws governing street performances bar new regulations on amplification which generally pose no threat on the classical performances.

Listening to the music in the Retiro Park

Listening to the music in the Retiro Park

In fact there is more relaxed stance toward busking around Madrid; it is socially acceptable where in other places it is not. Performances are a clearly  recognisable urban art form not a nuisance, the life and soul of the hectic streets. Though you’d think money is the only incentive driving the artists in Madrid’s tough economic climate, it is not the only thing driving the sound of the city. Many of the artists actually perform for their own enjoyment. Some use the streets to practice and then go on to perform elsewhere at local gigs or auditions, potentially adding to the list of stars hailing from Madrid.

So, in this culturally rich city, the luxury of classical music, lilting folk songs and modern pops can be found within arm’s length or a short walk away, a true gift for the ears. They never fail to entertain and please amongst the hustle and bustle of the big city, trumping the odious sound of traffic.

What is a beautiful city without its own soundtrack!



ANISAH street musicians - 3 Mariachi -A

Mariachi in Puerta del Sol, the very heart of Madrid. Listeners get to wear the wide Mexican sombreros and pose for souvenir pictures.

ANISAH street musicians - 5 Opera couple

Wife works her tambourine while hubby does two things: play the accordion and looks to his left . You won’t see it in the picture but that’s where Royal Opera is. They may never make it to that august thatre but they’ve got a larger audience out in the streets.




















ANISAH's ID picAnisah hails from London, England and studies Law (LLB) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She has a passion for travelling, history, art, politics and of course tea and football.