Guest column: Are musicians treated like a part of the furniture?

A Delhi saxophonist opens up about the lack of respect talented musicians get at live private gigs around the country
Abhay, a saxophonist, who also plays at wedding gigs, says you need to be mentally strong to do them (Yeashu Yuvraj)
Abhay, a saxophonist, who also plays at wedding gigs, says you need to be mentally strong to do them (Yeashu Yuvraj)
Updated on Sep 25, 2021 09:43 PM IST
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ByAbhay Sharma

In 2013, I was playing a post-wedding dinner gig when an uncle came and put 100 inside my saxophone’s bell. It was funny but also ridiculous and defied acceptable basic courtesy extended towards musicians, especially at a wedding or private party setting.

The lack of respect for musicians begins at home. My own band has seen three people leave as their parents had an issue with them playing at wedding shows. Digs like “When will you not have to play wedding shows?” are aplenty. Because historically and culturally, India has always looked down on musicians who would usually play in the court. That’s the environment musicians have also grown up in, and if musicians themselves aren’t respecting the culture of playing wedding gigs, you can’t expect it from the audience!

I have spent the past 14 years playing commercial music and the fact is that wedding and private gigs pay much more than other gigs.

But they come with their own shenanigans. My band and I have been asked to use different washrooms at performance venues and there’s a separate menu for artistes at places—a cost-cutting technique. At weddings, we are told there are only a limited number of plates. Now, I put everything on paper, including F&B, and if they can’t serve musicians, they reimburse us for a meal. Though, you have to remember that a wedding gig is a job at the end of the day. You are there to be a part of ambience at times, which is unfortunate. But if you can’t do it, then don’t!

You need to be mentally strong to continue doing wedding gigs. After my set at a wedding at a Manesar hotel in 2012, an inebriated uncle came up to me and took out a gun, asking me to play a song. He had mistaken me for the DJ!

Getting paid is another headache. At a function at an IAS officer‘s place, I had to pay him 5,000 as he alleged my father had had two pegs of liquor served there. At another gig in Gurgaon, I did an additional 45-minute set on the host’s request but got paid seven months later after statements like “Payment chod, main thappad maarne waala hun” were thrown around as a band member had a drink.

At another gig where celebrities were invited and I ended up speaking to a few, the client didn’t pay me, saying, “How dare you speak to my guests?”

Musicians will get disheartened. Some are now trying to become more popular than creative. Because the thought is ‘if a person knows who I am, they won’t be disrespectful’.

As told to Karishma Kuenzang

Abhay Sharma is a Delhi-based musician who has played with the likes of Shankar Mahadevan, apart from helming his own band, The Revisit Project.

From HT Brunch,September 26, 2021

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021