Will new busking rules make Dublin street music better?

Business owners will welcome Dublin City Council’s ban on buskers using backing tracks

Anyone who has walked down Grafton Street will have heard the torturous strains of My Heart Will Go On or El Condor Pasa with full musak soundtrack. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Anyone who has walked down Grafton Street will have heard the torturous strains of My Heart Will Go On or El Condor Pasa with full musak soundtrack. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Many music lovers will welcome the news that buskers have been banned from using backing tracks when performing on the streets of Dublin. The city council voted on Monday to implement the new rule on August 1st.

It will be music to the ears of many business owners, who had complained about buskers playing “woeful karaoke versions of popular elevator hits” outside shops and offices.

Despite the introduction of bylaws for street performers in April 2015, the councillors said that buskers still caused “significant daily problems and discomfort for businesses, residents and members of the public”.

Anyone who has walked down Grafton Street or Henry Street will have heard the torturous strains of My Heart Will Go On or El Condor Pasa being played on pan pipes with a full muzak backing track. From August 1st buskers will have to get by without help from James Last. And they’ll have to be able to play a 30-minute set without repetition.

Business owners also complained about excessive amplification. They said some buskers reached 100dB, far above the 80dB limit. But although councillors agreed to ban amplification in certain areas of Temple Bar, the issue has been kicked to touch.

Back in my busking days, in the late 1980s, no one had the luxury of backing tracks or amplification. We relied on our wits and our ability to belt out Fisherman’s Blues with just a cheap guitar. I jostled for space on Grafton Street with some of Dublin’s best buskers: Glen Hansard, Mic Christopher, Mundy, Mark Dignam and Paddy Casey. Every now and again Liam Ó Maonlaí (left) and Fiachna Ó Braonáin from Hothouse Flowers would go out in Benzini Brothers guise.

With the council acting to uphold busking standards, perhaps Grafton Street will again become a breeding ground for future stars.

The classical violinist Bodgan Rusin says that the ban on amps will drive buskers out of Temple Bar. Julian and Vasile, who play violin and flute on Grafton Street, say backing tracks are not the problem – instead, they say, bad buskers should be weeded out.

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