Imran Beharry

Reining Chutney Soca Monarch, GI (Imran Beharry). PHOTO COURTESY GEORGE SINGH

There is no light at the end of the tunnel for local music creatives says Indo-Trinidadian music promoter George Singh.

Singh, who’s Southex Events Management company stages the annual Chutney Soca Monarch competition among other East Indian music concerts, predicts dark days ahead with “no end in sight” to the global coronavirus pandemic.

“The entertainment industry has been affected in a major way. While many other businesses may see a light at the end of the tunnel, our local artistes in Trinidad and Tobago are faced with zero income from an industry that went from 100 to nil, literally overnight.

“There is no light at the end of the tunnel for artistes. Many of our local artistes have not been able to generate any sort of income since March 1, with no end in sight,” a concerned Singh told Kitcharee on Friday.

Singh said contrary to popular belief most local music acts are “simple folk living from “gig to gig”. He said Government’s Covid-19 stay-at-home and social distancing restrictions have inadvertently dried all streams of income.

“Our local artistes who are ‘superstars’ in their own right, are very simple folk, who have been quietly suffering with many of them having nowhere to turn. There are many artistes that are off the grid, not as popular as others, and while they made a living from cooking to cooking, weddings, basically gig to gig, they are now faced with no form of income and no way to put food on their table,” he explained.

Southex has also been affected, Singh said. Not only have they been forced to cancel all their events up to October, but the company is also unclear about planning for events beyond that time period as everything remains uncertain with regard to the pandemic.

“All conferences, trade shows, concerts were cancelled from the beginning of March. Many of the events we had on our schedule have all been cancelled. Even events that are on the agenda as far into the year as October, are being cancelled. This has had a serious effect on cash flow. It’s hard at this point to plan anything, to make projections as we are not sure when things will settle or event start to look like it’s in recovery mode,” Singh lamented.

Creating a spark in the dark

Despite the challenges, Singh said his company remains a “caretaker of the Indo-Caribbean music industry” and as such they are planning a fundraising Indian Arrival Day (May 30) online concert aptly coined: Arrival D Concert.

The virtual event, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m., will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube and will feature some of the top local Bollywood singers including Rakesh Yankaran, Rooplal Girdharrie, Satnarine Ragoo, Veejai Ramkissoon, Reshma Ramlal, Anuradha Hansraj, Savita Singh and GI Beharry, among others. All acts will be backed by the Avatar band led by Kishore “Wizzy” Ramdath. Proceeds from the event will go towards helping artistes affected by the pandemic shutdown, Singh said.

“There will be a ‘donate’ button, where all donations will go to a fund that assists artistes that have been most affected by the coronavirus. People will be able to donate using a credit card via PayPal,” he said.

Artistes already shining a light on the needy

Singh said a number of Indo music acts are currently engaged in charity relief work within their communities.

“Many of the front line artistes have been doing their bit by giving out hampers etc. GI Beharry, Veekash Sahadeo, Nishard Mayrhoo and Raymond Ramnarine have all been doing a tremendous job in getting hampers out to people in need. I know there are many others playing their part in their own way,” he revealed.

He said while hampers and Government grants offer temporary relief to those in need there needs to be a holistic sustainable long term plan to reignite the entertainment sector.

“While thousands of hampers have been given out to those in need, and Government has arranged grants for those that may have lost their jobs, we have not heard anything being put in place for local artistes who are all mostly self-employed,” he said.

Singh said the way forward may require innovation and reinvention.

“With regards to the way forward, the events industry is going to be forced into doing business differently. Technology is going to play a vital role in how we do business in the future. Companies are going to have to create novel ways to give people ‘new’ experiences within the entertainment sector,” he mused.

He said Southex is already working on different applications for the conference and entertainment sector, which will be revealed in the next few weeks.

“We have been working with a team out of Poland and Germany and will be launching something that will change the conference and entertainment market significantly,” he said.

In the interim, he believes entertainment practitioners may have to be patient to allow these measures to come on stream.

“I think the Government did what had to be done to secure the population and they have done a great job in keeping the virus out as much as possible. Keeping the borders closed for as long as possible will be important, however I think it is time to start moving quickly to get things up and running in all the other sectors as quickly as possible.

“Unfortunately the entertainment sector will be the last one to ‘fire up’, and the event companies will have to be patient as we go into what will be a new phase for our industry.

While creating a subcommittee might help, we don’t need handouts at this point. All event companies are going to have to adjust to a new way of doing business and the faster people start adapting to the changes that are coming, the faster we will be able to help all those that depend on us,” Singh concluded.

Anyone willing to support the Arrival D Concert initiative can contact Southex at 653-2908, 653-8923 or via e-mail at info@southex.co.tt.

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