Istanbul buskers light up the dreary commute, make ends meet

In between trying to make ends meet and dealing with Istanbul's gridlocked traffic - rated one of the worst for commuters in the world - street musicians are always a pleasant surprise in this sprawling mega city.  

Istanbul's busy metro stations are teeming with buskers playing everything from jazz to Turkish folk and classical music for the busy commuters before they hop on their trains.

The city prevents them from playing on the streets, but issues permit for metro stations.

In Taksim, a major hub famous for its restaurants, shops, and hotels, there are tourists, commuters, shoppers and students all around the square. In the metro station someone is singing an English pop song.

Ibrahim Seber and Recep Güler are both professional musicians. Seber, 72, said he has been playing music for the last 40 years. "I played at hotel bars as well, but playing on the street is the real deal," he said. Seber said he was not in it for the money. “Of course I appreciate the money," he said laughing, but said it made him happy to play while watching the passersby. "The show must go on," he said, before launching into another song.

At another metro station in a residential and shopping district civil engineer Koray Çakıroğlu, 27, plays the ney, a Middle Eastern flute-like instrument. Çakıroğlu has a day job and busking is just a hobby. "I've been playing on the streets for six years," he said. "I only play three days a week. I'm not doing it for the money." The neyzen, as ney players are called, said playing in public was almost therapeutic. "Sometimes, I don't even notice those around me. I see happy faces when I lift my head, and of course, that really makes me happy," Çakıroğlu said

At a metro stop in a business district, 63-year-old Ozan Recep is singing a Turkish folk song. Recep, who performs in the Istanbul Metro three times a week said he had been singing for more than 42 years. The singer said that he can make about 50 liras (around $8) a day. But like others, he said he was not in it for the money. "People know me, they say hi when they pass by," Recep said, before asking to be excused to go back to singing as a new train arrives.

At another crowded station, on the Asian side of the city, Müslüm Delibaş, a visually impaired artist is singing. Delibaş, 37, said that he lost his eyesight when he was 20. His daughter and wife are accompanying him. While Delibaş keeps performing, his wife answers our questions. "It's hard for Müslüm to get a job," she said. "Thank God, they let him perform here so that he can make some money. The passengers love him."