Tamil Nadu

Sad song of light music orchestra groups

A musical troupe performs in Madurai. (Picture used for representational purpose only)

A musical troupe performs in Madurai. (Picture used for representational purpose only)  

“Our instruments are rusting and our voice is getting weaker”

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

“We would spend most of our nights singing at lit-up temples and marriage halls with an assured income. In the last 80 days, our instruments have been rusting and our voices are becoming weaker. We don’t know how to take our lives forward,”says J. B. Vijay, president of the Tamil Nadu Medai Mellisai Kalaignargal Sangam in Madurai.

Ever since the lockdown began, the lives of several performers had been affected drastically. Mr. Vijay’s story of how 300 orchestra musicians in Madurai are stressed and anxious about the year’s income is full of pain.

While some are wondering about how to save for their children’s education, others are concerned about having wasted money on purchasing new instruments earlier this year. “If we had known this, we would have saved the mondy,” Mr. Vijay says.

S. Mathiazhagan, secretary of the association, says that it is easy for artists to slip into past memories and look at it fondly. “Last year was particularly good. Many people held functions, conferences and marriages. The presence of a live orchestra became a show of opulence,” he says.

Mr. Mathiazhagan says most performers play only for seven months in a year. “We save up on the rest of the amount and spend it in the other five months. We expect that people will be very prudent about their spending in the next year and may not hire us. This is something we are unprepared for,” he says.

Mr. Vijay says that the only way to get out of the slump is to ensure that they begin playing again at weddings. “At events, nobody really comes near an orchestra. We have a maximum of 12 musicians on stage. We will ensure social distancing,” he assures.

He believes that the lockdown will surely drive performers away from this profession. However, any new job will have to be learnt from scratch, he says. “Getting up on stage and commanding it are our only skills,” he says. He adds that there is no specific welfare board in the Tamil Nadu government to help them.

The association members have submitted a petition to District Collector T. G. Vinay and to Revenue Minister R. B. Udayakumar in the past week. “We hope they can empathise. After all, they too have surely hired musicians for functions at their homes in the past,” Mr. Vijay says.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 7:15:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/sad-song-of-light-music-orchestra-groups/article31826466.ece

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