View Full Version : Busking with the Swedes

11-12-2010, 02:56 PM
On my recent business trip to Stockholm I decided to take my uke along, just to keep in practice, and maybe to give me something to do at two in the morning when I woke up with the jet lag blues. After arriving at the airport and getting checked into my hotel, I decided to take the train into central Stockholm. Why not take the uke with me just for fun, maybe as a conversation starter?

I walked over to Gamlan Stan, the oldest part of Stockholm, with narrow winding streets and historic sites. I came upon a couple of street musicians playing sax and electric bass on a street corner. They were pretty good, looked to be in their mid-twenties, I think they were playing Gershwin's "Summertime", one of my favorites. I listened for a bit, and then continued walking.

Not wanting to get lost, I retraced my steps back along the same street, and once again came upon the street musicians. This time they were playing "Autumn Leaves", another of my favorites, and giving it a very bluesy interpretation, really quite nice. And then I thought, I'll bet it would be fun to play with these guys. So when they finished the song, I just went up and asked if I could try playing along.

They said, "Sure, what do instrument you play?", since the uke was strapped behind my back. When I showed them the uke, they kind of gave me a look like, "okaaaaaay, uh ... why not?".

I suggested we start off with some blues, in the key of their choice, so it was blues in C. At first I was pretty focused on my chords, but I couldn't help noticing that a pretty good audience seemed to be gathering, and quite a few coins were being tossed into the open guitar case. People seemed to be smiling, and maybe it was my imagination, but I think they were smiling at me!

We played a couple more tunes, the audience thinned a bit, and not wanting to overstay my welcome, I told them I needed to get going. As I packed up my uke, they asked if I wanted to take some of the money. I told them of course not, and that I should pay them for the privilege. But they said, no, really, that was the busiest they'd been all afternoon, and they seemed surprised when I told them I'd never played on the streets before. We chatted for a bit, and they told me they were trying to get enough money for a jazz concert that evening. I wished them luck, and went on my way. But I think I may have been bitten by the bug, I want to try that again some time!

11-12-2010, 03:27 PM
Wow, that's a really cool story. Good for you!
Thanks for sharing.

11-12-2010, 03:46 PM
Pretty cool. It's amazing how the uke can take you places you'd never see or experience without it.

mm stan
11-12-2010, 03:53 PM
Aloha doug,
That a nice story, sounds you had as much fun as them and the audience....I'm sure most of them, haven't seen a ukulele being played as you do.....and it is soo addicting playing on the streets...
Have fun and enjoy!!! Happy strummings .....Stan...
Mahalo for sharing...

11-12-2010, 05:22 PM
For you, Doug:


I've done it many times locally and never scored less than $200 bucks. I always donate it to one of the local homeless at freeway onramps and let them know that it is the proceeds from musical performances. Ric

11-13-2010, 02:25 AM
I always donate it to one of the local homeless at freeway onramps and let them know that it is the proceeds from musical performances. Ric

Most awesome performance ever!

11-13-2010, 03:26 AM
What a great story.. fun experience... too bad you don't have a recording, it would be great to see!

11-14-2010, 05:36 AM
What a great story.. fun experience... too bad you don't have a recording, it would be great to see!

I wish I had a recording too, and it's possible one exists because I noticed people taking pictures, so maybe someone recorded some of it. Be pretty hard to track down, though.

Thanks everyone, glad you liked my little story.

I also like the idea of donating the proceeds. Anybody know of any good ukulele related non-profits? Thanks,


Papa Tom
11-14-2010, 05:45 AM
My closest experience was during a business trip at an airport here in the states, when I pulled out the uke to entertain some cranky kids that were annoying everyone. It turned into one of those impromptu moments that made everyone in this bustling terminal stop what they were doing and get involved. Although I tried, I was never able to recreate the experience in another airport on another day, but I have a feeling the memory of that one time will stick with me and a thousand other travelers for a long time.

Congratulations! You are now permanently etched into the spirits of all the Swedes who passed you on the street that afternoon!

11-14-2010, 10:19 AM
I also like the idea of donating the proceeds. Anybody know of any good ukulele related non-profits? Thanks,


I believe Lori, on the forums here, is involved in a charity that provides ukes and/or lessons to schools in california.

10-15-2011, 06:47 AM
Wow! What I wonderful story. I think Swedes can use a bit of the joy the uke can bring :) Thanks for sharing.

10-15-2011, 09:12 AM
I've been trying to get enough nerve to busk, you have helped me towards that goal. Like you I don't really need the money, I just want to do it.

10-15-2011, 10:57 AM
What a great story - thanks for sharing it. I'm still pretty new to the uke, but I do take it with me and I travel a lot for business. You've given me reason to work those chord progressions even more!

10-15-2011, 01:14 PM
I take my uke a lot of places and play in the car but haven't had the nerve to even play at a picnic table when no one is around. Have no trouble playing and singing on stage with groups but all alone....... that takes real guts! Great job!

10-15-2011, 02:56 PM
For those that can play with groups, but not perform solo, have your groups play for local organizations like Kiwanis, retirement homes (just call one and ask for the activities director) and other community programs. Right now, many of these organizations are strapped for cash. We have several groups where we play these events for free. While they always offer us a stipend, we tell them to put that money back into their more needy causes. We don't turn down being fed, though. LOL! Ric

10-15-2011, 03:20 PM
ric: Have worked mannnnyyyyy times for food! HA! Great advice. There is a big reward playing those venues. Going to do some old folks homes "uke solo" to try to get the busking nerve up!

10-15-2011, 04:15 PM
Go for it, rem50! Here's a group that has that aloha spirit of performing:



Hippie Dribble
10-15-2011, 06:20 PM
Thanks for that awesome story Doug. I say good for you for having the courage to do it. Would have been great fun. It's an encouragment and inspiration to all of us. Blessings mate.

10-16-2011, 11:22 PM
Next time, come to Norway!

10-17-2011, 02:01 AM
Awesome story and experience Doug.

10-17-2011, 06:55 AM
Next time, come to Norway!

Doc, I'll be in Stockholm Nov 2, and Copenhagen Nov 5 & 6. Come on down, if we find a good busking venue, maybe we can pay for your train ticket. :)

10-17-2011, 07:42 AM
well, how about that...?
It would have been fun for sure...have to 'work' though - teach piano to kids.