Laksa plays the Senegalese Kora and doesn't speak much English. When I asked him why he came to New York he simply said "I like America. It's nice." with a sheepish smile.
So we hung out in the subway and let the Kora do the talking. The sound of the Kora was quite something -- intense and entrancing, one can hear West Africa's proud heritage in its sound and Laksa's singing. His voice was a fascinating blend of silky smoothness and a distant nostalgia that permeated the subway with a sense of longing.
The train pulls into the station and drowns out the music, but Laksa doesn't stop. A few commuters dropped quarters and dollar notes into his case and he simply nodded gracefully without being distracted.
The train leaves the station, and Laksa and his Kora emerged from the noise again like wet sand under the tide. Every 5 minutes another train would pull in, pick up the commuters then pull away again, each time drowning out the music but Laksa seemed unbothered by it.
5 trains later Laksa finished his song. He turned to me with a smile, "I'm tired." he said, "Thank you for listening."