Classical musicians struggle to survive

July 9, 2015

Classical musicians struggle to surviveClassical musicians are straining to keep their heads above water because of insufficient working opportunities, with the shows on stage, television and radio mostly dominated by the practitioners of more popular and
contemporary genres of music.
Winter is the season when they get most of their calls for performance, while the rest of the year they have to subsist on their meagre earnings from irregular shows, private tuition and their involvement with musical schools.
‘Our situation is miserable,’ said Rezwan Ali, a noted classical singer and also general secretary of Bangladesh Ucchango Sangeet Shilpi Parishad. ‘There are not just enough shows with the help of which classical singers can live a decent life.’
‘Chhayanaut and Suddho Sangeet Prosar Goshthi organise classical music festivals every year while Shilpakala organise regular shows on classical music. Bengal Foundation hosts a classical event but that’s mostly about foreign performers. Apart from these, there are hardly any programmes,’ he added.
Priyanka Gope, a classical singer and music teacher at the Dhaka University, spoke in the same vein. ‘Classical musicians/singers get calls for shows during winter only, but afterwards there is a long dry spell when there are few opportunities,’ she said.
According to experts, the audio market has been in a slump for the past several years because of piracy and royalty issues, making singers and instrumentalists dependent on stage and television shows for their livelihood. But since classical musicians cater to a niche audience, they are seldom invited to these platforms.
‘Given the existing situation, you would expect more from the state-owned television and radio stations. But their efforts are perfunctory and uninspiring,’ said popular singer Harun-ur-Rashid. ‘BTV airs a weekly show titled Sur Lahori while Bangladesh Radio dedicates little airtime to the musical genre.’ Harun likened the situation to an ‘adverse drug reaction.’
‘It’s like an adverse drug reaction. As the channels are not airing enough shows on classical music, people are losing their interest in it, and as a consequence, classical musicians are not getting enough performance opportunities,’ he said.
The situation is even worse for the classical vocalists. Classical instrumentalists can earn their living by playing for TV and radio shows even during dry seasons but the vocalists face stark choices. ‘Instrumentalists can easily survive by playing violin or tabla but the singers are not that fortunate,’ said Alauddin Miya, a seasoned violinist and president of Bangladesh Ucchango Sangeet Shilpi Parishad.
Given the situation, the artistes have called for government interventions. ‘If the government instructs television and radio channels to broadcast at least one hour of classical music every week, it will make a world of difference,’ said Rezwan Ali.
‘It is important to preserve classical music as this is the mother of all musical genres.’

-With New Age input

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