Monday’s Express featured an article headlined “A cultural curfew” about local musicians and singers suddenly losing income due to the cancellation of events due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Several artistes said they were concerned over the loss of income and being able to pay bills, but they all understood the importance of not having concerts and other events at this time.
The artistes expressed hope a vaccine would be developed quickly and life would soon return to normal. In the meantime, the musicians and singers are using the downtime to create new music and to experiment.
Following are the sentiments expressed by some of the creatives we spoke with.
“In the capacity of singer/musician and speaking on my own behalf, I would have to say I am not affected that much. For many years, calypsonians have struggled with kaiso being for a season only. Post-Carnival offers very little opportunities for the majority. There is always talk of changing things, but it forever remains a ‘work in progress’. Tangible change remains a promise and a dream but for a few.
“(As for) finances, I am okay. God is forever faithful. Mentally, my concern at this time is the mentality of the general population. It is my hope we are all actively thinking of safeguarding not just ourselves but others. I have options by God’s grace. Being self-employed offers me opportunities to multiply my stream of income and diversify it as becomes necessary.
“I must say, I will miss my local plays, however...always look forward to those hosted at Central Bank and Cipriani Labour College.”
“While it hasn’t drastically affected me as yet, it has affected me in some ways. I usually attend Miami Music Week, which includes the Ultra Music Festival, and this year, for this first time ever, the entire week was cancelled as a result of COVID-19. This is usually one of my most important trips for networking as an artiste.
“I’m also a promoter/booking agent locally for live music events, which I have had to postpone until further notice, so as a businessman within the music industry, this has also affected me. However, I’m still able to go to the studio and record vocals for producers I’m working with who are based locally and abroad, so that aspect of business hasn’t been affected although we still have to take extra precautions with cleanliness.
“Also, any travel plans I had for music for the year are now in limbo until this situation is resolved globally. Another aspect affected is the date and time of upcoming music and music video releases. As an artist, we now have to strategically plan when we release our music as it can get lost in translation with everything happening in the world right now, especially on social media.”
Veerendra Persad—leader, KI and the Band:
“All of our events locally and internationally have been postponed to dates to be announced. As for how we are making out financially, this depends on how long this coronavirus stays around. We are wishing for the best. We continue to focus on what’s ahead, hoping it will all work out well. As we say, God is good.”
Joey Ng Wai—musician:
“We will definitely all be affected, especially if this is a long-term situation beyond the 14-day self-quarantine. It’s not like it will be business as usual. So those of us with contingency plans will be okay for a spell. But those without such will face a tough second quarter, possibly through the rest of the year.
“The gatherings right now are our biggest enemy. But some of us believe we are invincible and will want to risk it. We need to think country.”
Richard Ramnarine— Dil-e-Nadan:
“The music industry could be shut down for months. We are hoping that the virus can be resolved and contained. Financially, we have already lost a lot from the ELR (Everybody Loves Raymond) concert, and we anticipate more losses in the upcoming months. Mentally, we are educating ourselves and looking at options that will work for the industry in the future. As for now, all we can do is to keep praying and following instructions on how to avoid getting the virus.”
“This post-Carnival period is usually quiet for me personally, but as I wear different hats in the creative space, it is clear that the impact is going to be severe. It’s not just the cancellation of events that were previously booked locally but also the uncertainty over what happens next. I had a few overseas engagements confirmed and in advanced state of negotiations, but the health risk attached to going out to do them is not worth it.
“There would be some loss of income, but as the saying goes, money can’t buy health and life. Mentally, however, I am good. My focus for this time of year was really to put out more work digitally and get back into studio to work on some new material for an album. So my plans are on stream.
“As it relates to options, yes, there are many options on the table for me to continue generating revenue through creative expression. It is all tied into the digital content I mentioned above.”
“It would definitely have an effect in regard to less bookings for events, which in turn may cause clients to postpone/cancel their functions. As for me, this is how I make my living—no functions, no income. Mentally, you just have to stay strong, stay positive and pray that the spread of this virus subsides sooner rather than later.”
“I’ve have had a lot of performances scheduled abroad. All got cancelled, so immediately, yes, finances are taking a hit. But mainly for me, I’ve lost opportunities to spread our culture to the wider world. Mentally, it was initially taxing, but I have been following up on COVID-19 from its inception, tracking its path, the fatalities and all the dos and donts.
“Now that it’s here, it’s just for me to take extra precautions, but my main concern is really for those who fall within the vulnerable grouping—heart and cancer, HIV/AIDS patients, diabetics, etc. My alternative option is that I’m employed within the procurement and logistics department at Trinidad Lake Asphalt, so I’m able to earn a living through other means, apart from the music.”
Lyrikal (Devon Martin)—soca artiste:
“The whole Covid-19 situation is definitely frustrating for me, and I’m sure it is for everyone as well. I never thought I would ever experience a time where not just events but entire carnivals are being postponed/cancelled because of a virus, and even more than that, sports organisations like the NBA, for example. Obviously, as an artiste, this is how we make our money to pay bills, invest back into the music, etc, so it’s definitely taking a slight toll financially, but like the saying goes, always try and put aside something for a rainy day.
“But honestly, not every artiste might be in the same situation, so for some, it will definitely be a lot tougher to face right now. Mentally, I always learn to adapt to any situation, especially in tough times, simply because I came from times when I didn’t have much, so even now when I’m more fortunate financially, I still keep that in my head. For example, I will still eat the same food for three days straight sometimes, or eat bread and butter and not go to a fancy restaurant.
“Right now, there’s really not many options because obviously, most places with events are shutting down, unless you’re in a safe zone in certain Caribbean islands and everything is moving like normal. So for now, at least for myself, is a time I’ll use to write and record, get a lil rest from Carnival ’cuz it was a hectic one and spend time with family.But this too shall pass, so for now, I’ll send out a safe message to everyone—God is in control.”
Rashaad Ahong—musician, Lujoe and the Gifted:
“As of now, the effects are quite minimal, but if the current state of affairs continue, I see it becoming a big problem. Especially if the cancellations continue.”
This outbreak of COVID-19 is really serious, considering what we do, interacting with people at gatherings and performances. It affects what we do at the Black Box (performance space). It’s going to be affected severely because we may have to curtail events until further notice. So it’s going to be pretty rough financially. Mentally, well, this is something new. We are going to have to take it in stride.
“Right now, I’m just taking in as much information as I can, trying to get a sense of what next? As far as options, personally, I may have options, but I’m very concerned for the entire sub-sector and for so many other people who are working in industries that are dependent on serving other people and interacting with other people. We are in this for the long haul, so we just have to stay calm, stay positive, say our prayers and look out for each other.