Madurai

No work, no income for orchestra musicians

‘Our instruments are rusting’

Under normal circumstances, orchestra musicians would have performed at some event or the other between March and May every year. However the COVID-19 lockdown has robbed them of their means to a livelihood this year and has left many of them in penury.

“We used to perform in temples and weddings and had an assured income. With no work for the last 80 days, our instruments are rusting and voice of our singers has become feeble. We don’t know how to take our lives forward,” says J.B. Vijay, president of Tamil Nadu Medai Mellisai Kalaignargal Sangam in Madurai.

Since the lockdown began, lives of several performers have been seriously affected. While some are worrying about their children’s education, others are regretting over having wasted money on buying new instruments earlier this year. “Had we known about the lockdown, we would have saved the money,” Mr. Vijay says.

S. Mathiazhagan, secretary of the association, says artistes do slip into nostalgia of the good old days, as the going is bad now. “Last year was particularly good. There were many functions, conferences and marriages. The presence of a live orchestra for many is a show of opulence,” he says.

Mr. Mathiazhagan says they perform for seven months in a year and save the money to see them through the rest of the year. “Now, people will be prudent about their spending and may not hire us. This is something we are unprepared for,” he says.

Mr. Vijay says the only way to get out of the slump is to ensure that they begin performing again at weddings.

“At events, nobody comes near an orchestra. We will be about 12 musicians on stage. We will ensure social distancing,” he says. He is worried that the lockdown will drive performers away from this profession. However, any new job will have to be learnt from scratch, he says. “Getting up on stage and entertaining people are our only skills,” he says. He adds that there is no welfare board for them to get assistance from the State government.

The association submitted petitions to Collector T. G. Vinay and Revenue Minister R. B. Udayakumar. “Hope they can empathise with us as they would have hired musicians for their family functions,” Mr. Vijay says.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 6:39:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/no-work-no-income-for-orchestra-musicians/article31830767.ece

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