Music

COVID-19 & Assam music industry: 4 musicians narrate their ordeal

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Many sectors of our ever changing society have been affected by the unprecedented viral outbreak that has not only left the world aghast, but has proven to be a formidable adversary against modern medicine.

The world will never be the same again. In fact, the world is told to adapt to the “new normal”. But something we haven’t been able to wrap our minds around is the effect this virus is having on the different industries. One sector that has already taken a major hit as a result of this pandemic, is the entertainment industry. Many musicians, directors, songwriters, and so on have gone through one of the worst periods in the history of the industry and experiencing unprecedented hardship.

The entertainment scene in India has taken a major hit as shows have been cancelled to prevent overcrowding which will cause further spread of the virus. Concerts and shows, which have been one of the most common ways musicians gain income have been prohibited all across the country. In Assam, situation is even worse for the musicians. This downslide started in 2019 December, during the CAB/CAA movement, and gradually when things started getting better , now with COVID-19 pandemic,it is like a nail in the coffin for the music industry in this region.

Sing-Songwriter, composer, and producer Dipatanil Barua puts it plainly; “The shows and concerts I used to do were the main source of my revenue. Now that it is temporarily suspended, I just depend on the clients that just want me to sing, compose or produce songs for their various tracks, which I can do from home.”

Many other musicians have felt, in adverse ways, the effect of the pandemic on their sources of livelihood. Sarmistha Chakravorty, a renowned sing-songwriter and composer explains in detail what musicians are currently going through with respect to their income. “Musicians are as affected by this virus like everyone else. Personally, I’m trying not to focus too much on the negatives, but instead I focus more on the positives. The major way I earned revenue before this pandemic was through voice over work. But now, I don’t get enough work compared to before the pandemic era, says Chakravorty.

“I’m now forced to do translations from home. Although that has not been affected as much, I still get frustrated, mainly because nobody’s certain of the future, and how long we get to suffer like this until I can go back to the normal job I do to generate revenue,” she adds.

Entertainers have not only suffered a reduction in revenue, but also in ideas, creativity and motivation. For most creatives, being out on the streets, interacting with various people is one of the major sources of inspiration and being restricted in the confines of their homes may limit their inspiration. For others, the emotional toll the pandemic brings with it prevents any flow of inspiration.

Entertainer Anindita Paul, who is a national award nominated playback singer, puts her feelings on the matter into words, “Most times I feel so unmotivated. I am human and the crisis going on around me leaves me perturbed. Although I try to engage in other activities like spending time with my family, reading books, cooking, enjoying Mother Nature, which I hope will help me establish a connection to my roots, and in turn will improve my musical sensitivity. When everything blows over, I intend to double my determination and inspiration in making music.”

All across India, shows that were scheduled to hold before the pandemic hit have been cancelled. This not only affects the lead singers and performers, but also members of the musical band. Paul says some members of her band are suffering the most, especially the ones that depend on stage shows as their primary source of livelihood. “I completely empathise with them, as this somewhat affects me and my husband,” she says.

“My husband, Dibyajyoti Nath, who plays the base for top music directors in Bollywood at various live shows, has not been able to earn any income this period. However, if this continues for months without any change, members of the band won’t be the only ones suffering in terms of sustainability and livelihood, everyone will,” Paul adds.

The Coronavirus pandemic has also taken some musician’s attention away from music, as they need to find other means of survival. “Music is something I can’t live without, COVID-19 or not. I will always make music, in fact already I’ve released some songs and I’m currently working on two regional films. However, I’ve learnt to survive only on my bare necessities and I and my band are now experimenting with farming; fish, hen, duck farming, in several villages in Assam. Ever since the concerts were cancelled, we had to be proactive, we couldn’t just sit around and do nothing,” says composer, sing-songwriter, and founder of Cultivators band Arupjyoti Baruah.

Some musicians, however, are making the best of a bad situation. Dipatanil Barua adds “Although it has been difficult, we cannot ignore the bright side as well. Before the lockdown I was on a tight schedule of shows upon shows. Now with the lockdown, I have time to work on my studio releases which have for a long time been pending. I don’t have to worry about unnecessary pressure or deadlines, I’m working with a free mind.”

In spite of the pandemic, many musicians are still hopeful about the future and are confident once things return to normal, they will be back to entertaining their beloved fans with several shows and concerts, doing what they love to do.

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