Turn a Subway Busker into a BPP Star

Update: Voting closed Monday at 6 a.m. See full results.

It's our version of American Idol, folks. Turn to your inner Paula, Simon and Randy and watch these clips of New York subway musicians, then vote for your favorite!

We chose these four musicians of the 50 who participated in the Music Under New York competition.

The winner of your votes will be invited to the BPP studios to perform. Voting ends at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, May 12. We'll announce the winner on our broadcast that morning.



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What an excellent idea! If you do this again, and I hope you do, it would be nice if there was an audio-only option. Downloading four videos even over DSL is a bit of a time commitment.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 10:05 PM | 5-5-2008

I voted for Gibran Soul. Great voice, awesome song, style for days.

Sent by Maura | 10:52 PM | 5-5-2008

Love that you're doing this. Thought first three were fab...but Leah got my vote. Elvis C. cover on cello? Genius.

Sent by Marilyn | 9:22 AM | 5-6-2008

All the stylings are great, but the one that I think would make me stand and miss the next train is Mr. Gibran Soul!

Sent by Michael Wood | 4:47 PM | 5-6-2008

I took the time to watch each of the videos - and I had to vote for Balla Tounkara. That song is absolutely haunting and beautiful. I've been completely entranced by it.

And I agree, Marilyn, the Elvis Costello cover on cello was a genius move.

Sent by Cortlandt | 5:27 PM | 5-6-2008

Gibran Soul ROCKS!!!! ?? have never in my life heard such a great voice!!!!! A huge audience is waiting you MR. G??BRAN - what a dope name!!!!!

Sent by Sharon Rasmussen | 4:19 PM | 5-7-2008

Leah Coloff's version of that tune is awesome. Got my vote.

Sent by Steve | 1:36 AM | 5-8-2008

Great and inspiring project! All talented, but Leah got my vote!
Thanks for doing this for all of us!

Sent by Laura CM | 2:30 PM | 5-9-2008

leah is awesome!

Sent by Virginia Senior | 4:52 PM | 5-9-2008

love that leah! we need more beautiful talented lady musicians in our subways (playing, not riding).

Sent by franny pants | 2:05 PM | 5-10-2008

A heartfelt vote for Baby Soda. They are the BEST! Such musicianship, such joie de vivre--Oh, I hope they win--they surely deserve it!

Sent by Anne Ruemenapp | 5:36 PM | 5-10-2008

All four are great, but Baby Soda gets my vote. Check out other great songs on their myspace page.

Sent by Robert Colby | 5:43 PM | 5-10-2008

I heard theese guys in person in Washington Square. Wow! THey are professional all the way, and have a groove that wont quit!!! They are not only approachable, but have the integrity to live on the street, rather than compromise their arr. And they dance!!! If I were 40 years younger, and they needed a manolin player, I would be down in Manhattan, jamming along, like David Grisman in the good old days of bluegrass and whatever in the park. More people need to see and hear these fabulous, wonderful players! And by the way, I am a member at WXXI in Rochester, and have sent CDs to be played on Simon Pontin's "Salmigundy" Saturday a.m. show. They have a singer who makes Ethel Merman sound like a shrinking violet; she could drown out a Sousa band!!! I love these guys!!!

Sent by Jim Isham | 5:51 PM | 5-10-2008

I could listen to the Baby Soda Band all day and all night.

Sent by Bruce C. Minner | 7:08 PM | 5-10-2008

What a great thing that NPR is offering a showcase for street musicians to be more widely seen and heard! So many times I have been captivated by a subway or street musician playing for the joy of expression and taunting busy passersby to stop, appreciate and know that their hurry hurry is not the imporatnt thing. Also I have wanted to hire them to play in a yard party in Greenwich Village that I have not given -- my bad. Leah and the Gent from Mali are haunting, and I've seen the dancing in Wshington Square Park to Dixie and swing, and the gent from Harlem has a fabulous voice and resonance. How to choose? I love them all. Do more of this discovery work from our wonderful streets, and not just New York!

Sent by p greenough | 8:33 PM | 5-10-2008

Baby Soda makes the most incredible music!!!! I cant get enough!!!

Sent by Amber Mead | 9:51 PM | 5-10-2008

Baby Soda is great. I wish we had a street band like this in New Orleans... Hey, wait, we do.. Loose Marbles ... Thanks, Baby Soda (and Loose Marbles) for showing that the music I love is not just for old fogeys like me. Keep playing all that good old stuff.

Sent by bob rubin | 10:28 PM | 5-10-2008

Baby Soda (and the Loose Marbles whom they descend from) are one of the freshest most exciting things I've heard in quite awhile. i have always loved this kind of music, but when these guys play music from the 20s and 30s, instead of sounding quaint, its sounds wild and radical like it must have hit people back then. The singer Meschiya Lake,[spelling?] and the dancers Amy and Chance are fantastic, colorful, original. In fact I told Woody Allen about them,since he loves and plays this kind of music, as I have had occasion to work for him from time to time as an actress.

Sent by J smith-cameron | 12:41 AM | 5-11-2008

Definitely Baby Soda. Saw the Loose Marbles in Berlin, and have been a huge fan of them & theirs ever since.

Sent by Amy | 11:07 AM | 5-11-2008

Oh, I missed the voting deadline! Just saw this today. I LOVED both Gibran Soul and Balla Tounkara and would have had a tough time deciding which to vote for. The other 2 were talented too, but I just prefer the type of music that Gibran and Balla play. I'm sorry to see that Gibran did not get a lot more votes. He deserved more recognition of his voice and his creative rendition of a much-covered song. I love that song and have heard excellent versions (think Tracy Chapman with Buddy Waters), but Gibran's version is different and just as excellent if not better!

Sent by margie | 8:06 PM | 5-18-2008

My favorite subway performer is Lenny Varnedoe (Lenny Hoops) because he is very charismatic, has a great sense of humor, genuinely loves entertaining, and has a positive spirit. He loves people and life. He has a zest for living. I really think he should be on TV doing stand up comedy, comedic skits and movies. And if you ever have a bad day at work, and happen to be passing through Grand Central Station, the Port Authority or Central Park....and happen to see Lenny perform....he will definately lift your spirits. New York City is very lucky to have Mr. Varnedoe performing here. Keep having fun Lenny!

Sent by Sue Hucko | 3:32 AM | 6-10-2008