Kirsten Anderberg: Busker/Writer/Speaker

I began street performing (or "busking") at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA in 1978. This is my 1978 Market Busker permit.

My name is Kirsten Anderberg, and I am the rare solo woman busker. I have been a solo woman busker for over 30 years. I spent the first half of my life as a busker, and currently I have been doing speaking engagements and writing about busking. In 1990, in those pre-Google days, I did an independent study at the University of WA as an undergraduate student, on the history of women buskers. I used every research tool in the university's library system and produced nothing about women street performers throughout history but for a few women troubadors from the Renaissance period. It astounded me and my professor that nothing had been documented about women buskers throughout history. I was able to find references to male buskers in history, but women were invisible. Ever since that class, I have been trying to document women busker history, in addition to modern busker history, in general. My professional credentials include a B.A. degree in Women's Studies and Political Science from the University of WA and also an M.A. degree in History and Archiving from CA State University Northridge. I have also published many first-person articles and books about busking, which is rare, as most books about busking have been written by non-buskers. I have been a speaker at universities and private events, and have presented workshops on topics such as women's body esteem, for decades.

Kirsten busking on the Santa Cruz Mall in 1983

I began street performing as a woman with a guitar singing folk, blues, jazz, etc. but over time, I grew to be known as much for my biting political comedy as for my musical skills.

Kirsten sledgehammering a bathroom scale outside the Miss Seafair beauty pageant in 1991

Over the decades, I have performed with many other buskers and circus performers, have been in a few bands that played clubs, but have always performed solo on the side, primarily due to my desire to use busking as agit-prop (agitational propaganda) for political purposes. I think I care more about the politics involved with busking than the actual performing. What I mean by that is I am not content just singing pretty music in a swing band. Although I have done that, and can do that, I am much more engaged and alive when I am doing spontaneous political comedy on the streets with a willing cohort of public members, conspiring to change the world together. I have performed mainstream jazz, blues, swing, folk, etc. on the streets, but the most empowering and fun music I have played has always been a mixture of soul/funk and political activism, set to music, whether that be the snarky words of Frank Zappa or my own comedic feminist insights set to music. As a woman, it is very unusual to play the streets solo, and then to actually say something controversial.

Steve Clark is a legendary rabble-rousing, intelligent, political comedian busker in my busker clan...

Steve Clark is regarded as one of the most talented songwriters in my performer family. He has a gift for anti-authoritarian logic that is pure comedy. Steve wrote one of the greatest busker anthems of all time, called "You Can't Sing on the Street." He sings, "You can't sing on the streets in this country no more, and you can't go to sleep unless you've got a door, that's attached to a wall, that's attached to a floor, that's attached to a landlord that's keepin' you poor...So...don't sing on the street, better keep on your shoes and show some respect for the law."

Mother Zosima, aka Kirsten, busking at the NW Folklife Festival, circa 1989

Jan Luby is also a kindred spirit, performing radical feminist material for decades. We met long ago but in 2012, she wrote about our meeting and her feelings about my performances: "I always loved the way you connected with street (and on-stage) audiences. When you're really "on," you have a way of bringing people along, wherever you're going, no matter how outrageous. Your voice, presence, guitar work, all very strong. Then, there were also the days of Gibralter in the baby backpack, you killin' 'em again on the streets."

Kirsten busking under the clock at the Pike Place Market, with son Gibralter on her back, 1986

For the last decade, I have been interviewing street performers, especially women. You can read interviews I have posted online with international women buskers on my website here.

The Women Buskers Project Homepage

Women Buskers Interview #1: Maya Fink from Sweden (whom the author, K.Anderberg, busked with in New Orleans in 1984); Linsey Lindberg from the U.S., and Sylvia Sir Shiva from Croatia, Šibenik.

Women Buskers Interview #2: Yva Las Vegass, Pamela Suzanne Burdwell, and Christine Gunn: All gals who have busked the Pike Place Market in the past.

Women Buskers Interview #3: Mariide Widman and Kathleen Winters, also former and current Pike Place Market buskers.

Women Buskers Interview #4: The Saw Lady and the Spoon Lady, both on the East Coast U.S.

Mother Zosima (aka Kirsten) performing with Hacki Ginda at the Oregon Country Fair's Midnight Show, circa 1990

I have busked on the West Coast of the U.S., primarily. I have busked regularly on the Venice Boardwalk and the 3rd Street Promenade in Los Angeles, CA; the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA; the Portland Saturday Market in Portland, OR; the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz, CA; the Eugene Saturday Market in Eugene, OR; State Street in Santa Barbara, CA; the French Quarter in New Orleans, LA; amongst other places. I helped the City of Seattle institute its "Seattle Buskers Program" in 2007 and was mentioned in an L.A. Times article entitled, "Seattle's Buskers Get a Crime-Busting Gig." I have performed (and emceed) at legendary festivals for decades, including the Oregon Country Fair, NW Folklife Festival, Bumbershoot, Seattle Hempfest, Morton Loggers' Festival, Fremont Fair, and more.

Kirsten performing as a back-up singer for the Motown Revue, "Annie Rose and the Thrillers," approximately 1980.

I performed as one of the original "Thrillers" in "Annie Rose and the Thrillers," approximately 1980. The Thrillers played the Seattle club circuit Wed-Sun. This is a picture of the Fabulous Rainbow Tavern in the University District, which was every musicians' favorite gig in town. We also performed at the Buffalo Tavern in Ballard, the GNote Tavern in Greenwood, Dez's 400 in Queen Anne, the Central Tavern downtown, for private parties, and other venues. I did not like the sexploitation of these venues and performances and left the band in approximately 1981.

Raw Sugar performing at the Pike Place Market Street Fair, 1982 (Left to R: K. Anderberg, B. Woods, L. Schierman)

In 1982, I formed a band of women to perform and write original feminist satire, called "Raw Sugar." It was a direct result of too many nights in bars with The Thrillers. I had some things to say and I was not getting anywhere being a back-up singer in some sexy Motown group. Raw Sugar was a hit immediately, when we took to the streets at the University District Street Fair in Seattle, May 1982. I was a full-time busker, while my partners in crime in Raw Sugar were not, so I ended up busking with other people, in addition to being a solo, often too.

Jeff Kirkpatrick, Kirsten Anderberg, Chad Petersen performing as Seattle Swing, at the Port Angeles Street Fair, 1983

I began to perform with a few guys as "Seattle Swing." We were a trio, sometimes a quartet, and we did primarily jazz standards and swing. I played washboard and sang lead and background vocals in the group. Although it was not as fulfilling as performing radical feminist comedy with Raw Sugar, it was fun to play washboard with a band.

Busking with Don Lax, David T. Minstrel, and Chad Petersen at the Oregon Country Fair, 1983

I performed with many buskers over the decades.

* 15 Places to Busk in Seattle: A veteran street performer (aka busker) for the past 30+ years gives advice on street performing venues in the Seattle area. From street festivals to ferries, bus tunnels to public property, learn the ins and outs of street performing in the Seattle area from someone who has experience in the field. Fifteen different street performing opportunities are described in detail, including site-specific rules for buskers, previous personal experience, application procedures/deadlines and contact information for the venues.

Kirsten singing with guitar, 1983 (Photo: Gerd Kettel)

Kirsten and Gerd Kettel busking on the Santa Cruz Mall, 1983

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