London Calling: Shining a Spotlight on the International Music Scene

June 7, 2014


It’s hard not to fall in love with London whilst traversing its multicultural, cosmopolitan streets. It’s an undeniably international city with distinctly British flair, which attributes to why so many people find it so irresistible. There’s a little bit of everything: some of the world’s best shopping on Oxford Street, glitz and glamor at the frequent movie premieres in Leicester Square, one of the most powerful financial districts on the globe in the Square Mile, and the best curry outside of India on Brick Lane.

But arguably one of the city’s best traits is its thriving, undying music scene. London is, quite simply, a music town.

Everywhere you go, you can feel the musical influence. You can see the streets themselves seemingly breathing a song as the frequent pattering of raindrops upon cobblestones and the rumbling of trains underfoot create an ambience fit for the studios.


a Tube busker

There’s the Tube, where you’re guaranteed to see and hear someone busking in one of the two-hundred-odd stations almost every minute of every day. I’ve witnessed everything from violinists performing “My Heart Will Go On” to entire bands playing a full-out gig of entirely original material. Guitarists, drummers, flutists, trumpeters…no matter what the instrument, you’re guaranteed to see it all – and from a variety of ages, too. I’ve heard women in their early twenties and men in their late eighties; a band of teenagers and a quintet of middle-aged adults. It’s simply inspiring.

I absolutely love that busking is legal on the Tube, as it simultaneously encourages the vitality of live music and enables artists of all ages and talents to share their passions with hundreds upon thousands of people every day. It’s fascinating to me that a network of musicians exists simply to put music out there and entertain Londoners daily on their commute to and from work. I know it certainly brightened my Tuesday mornings as I dragged myself out of bed to make the trek across town to Islington for class.

The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch

The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch

In addition to the free performances on the Tube, London is home to literally thousands of music venues from which live gigs are put on every night – many of which are free or with a low cover charge. One of my personal favorites is The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch. It’s a hybrid between a pub and music venue, with the bottom floor occupied by a bar and lounge and the top floor comprising of a second bar and a stage. Handfuls of very talented musicians perform nightly, some of which have gone on to achieve success on the international level. In fact, Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys are both previous occupants of the Old Blue Last stage. It’s proof that you never know what hidden talent or future superstar you may discover on London nights. (If interested, check out for listings of upcoming gigs and any applicable cover charges).

There’s also an abundance of advertisements all over London for artists, new albums and upcoming live shows. You’ll see them everywhere: atop billboards, on the sides of buses, across shimmering screens in Piccadilly Circus, all along the walls of Tube stations. London loves music. It lives and breathes it, and the constant marketing of it both aids in the development of its scene in the city, and encourages Londoners to be more connected with it. BBC Radio 1 and Capital FM, London’s big radio stations and celebrity hotspots, keep its occupants connected to the global music scene and ensure that the city is constantly tuned to the goings-on of artists, labels, and festivals everywhere.

London has one of the best music scenes on the globe.

London has one of the best music scenes on the globe

Not to mention, London is the home turf of many of pop’s biggest artists: One Direction, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Bastille, Sam Smith…I could go on for several more paragraphs. London is one of the biggest players in the global pop game, and has been for a very long time. Anyone ever heard of the Spice Girls? How about Amy Winehouse? The Who? Or…wait, what was the name of that one band? The Beatles?

I rest my case.

In my opinion, London is the greatest city on earth and its abundance of culture, fashion, food, art, film, television (I could go on and on) is enough to justify this belief. But perhaps one of its best attributes – and something that I absolutely adore – is its reverence for and involvement with music. Music is a vital part of London culture and you can’t help but develop an appreciation and respect for the city’s scene as you wander its streets and feel its presence everywhere.  London continually demonstrates its proficiency in music, both with its past and present, which only indicates that the city will remain a powerhouse on the global market for years to come.

Cheers to that.

-Shelley DeHekker (@shelleydehekker)


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