'The guitar gently weeps': How artists in West Bengal strive amid COVID-19 lockdown
Thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown, a ban on live shows in West Bengal is making artists look for other options.
Before the pandemic rudely interrupted their work flow, West Bengal-based HelloDuck had ambitious plans chalked out for the year. With their new single 'Aadat Hai Meri' - written, composed and produced by band members Manish Das, Swayam Majumder and Rohan Singh - the band had planned to organise gigs through the year. But 2020 had other plans.
"We had to cancel the gig due to the lockdown. The pandemic ended up influencing our creative process," says Das. The EDM-pop genre band is not the only one facing difficult times. In the case of Sumith Ramachandran, labelled as one of the country’s most "jaw-dropping guitar players", online sessions came to his rescue when it became difficult to perform live. He now teaches Indian students from across the world.
The festive season in Bengal majorly impacts a performing artist’s annual income. Staying true to course, after months of lockdown, live performances in West Bengal made a comeback with the Durga Puja.
Artists heaved a sigh of relief as they looked forward to a good season, with Diwali, Christmas and New Year’s round the corner. But it was a short run. Many have switched to performing live shows online like Ramachandran and are focusing on building their social media engagements.
Dance floors are still closed in Kolkata and even though local nightclubs and pubs have opened, the environment is not really encouraging. But some like India’s top video turntablist from Kolkata, Felix Huang - also known as DJ Felix - are hopeful.
He believes that though things are not the same as last year, the live music scene in the state is better when compared to others. During the pandemic, Huang began making several videos on his Instagram and Facebook pages. His recent 'Rasode Mein Kaun Tha' video routine hit 11 million views and went super viral. He also released a new song called 'Jawab De', about the struggle of artists and musicians during the pandemic.
On their part, promoters and curators are also trying their best to revive the music scene. The founder of Smoke Inc Events, Nishit Arora, curated an online digital live music festival called ArtAloneTogether in June and August.
It featured artists from across the country and even some from neighbouring countries. India’s pioneering electronic dance music DJ Sanjay Dutta says that live music patronage was affected marginally due to the growth in DJ-based events since the 1990s.
Dutta, who has been a DJ since 1990, continues to do gigs at various cities, although less frequently ever since the pandemic.Even as artists take recourse to online platforms, they know only too well that nothing can beat the adrenaline rush and creativity that a live show can inject. Maybe 2021 will bring it on again.