Mic checks amidst lockdown: Musicians share how they are adapting to the new normal

Mics are all plugged in and the musicians are waiting for their cue. All eyes are set on them as they begin their performance, grooving with energy, the audience starts cheering, but this once, the exhilarating exchange takes place through a 14-inch screen and your office headphones. The performers who are used to the echoing support of the live audience have been forced to adapt their art to the ‘new normal’. And they want it back!

“There’s no better feeling than performing live. The energy exchange between the band and the audience is incendiary. I feel at home when I’m on stage, performing has become that comfortable. Right before we go on stage we just get together for a few laughs, maybe pictures for the social media or a quick snack, it’s a very chill scene. Then once the gig is on, the focus is on the music,” said Lokesh Bakshi (Touring guitarist/songwriter/ composer/ producer) who, although is missing the thrills of the live concerts, has used the lockdown to his benefit and collaborated with various artists and released 10 original tracks as of October, and plans to release 12 tracks by December.

“I am usually busy travelling for the gigs but with the lockdown in place and the gig scene shut, I got the chance to really focus on the music I wanted to do as an independent artist,” says the guitarist who has been touring with Ram Sampath Experience and Shirley Setia on a regular basis.

“Lockdown, however, has been a great time to collaborate and explore music,” he continued. “For one of my music videos we invited dancers from all over the country to record their performance, which

was fun!”

The ‘quarantine collaborations’ helped the artistes come together, especially due to their free schedules which are otherwise swamped with concerts. It was an opportunity to understand each other’s music.

And he is not the only one. Musician and singer-songwriter Kushal Mangal has also released two singles amidst the lockdown. He says: “During this period I concretized what I wanted to achieve, and a lot of independent projects worked out. The musicians who are used to doing things on their own and have their own studio setups and equipment figured out a way to keep themselves busy, as opposed to the ones that need to rely on the recording studios. We had to figure ways to work around the restrictions, with activities like shooting music videos.”

Online performances had then become the new normal for all these artists, it could hardly provide the kind of adrenaline rush these travelling musicians crave. “The vibes you get with a live concert where you can actually see and hear them react, it is completely different, online concerts can never match up to that. As of now we have sound engineers who are making sure all online concerts go fine, and the artists inevitably give their 100 percent. We also recommend our audience to tune into the online concerts via proper medium like speakers which would help them tune into it better,” said Sayantan Dutta (Music Producer/ Arranger/ Keyboardist), who released Manjhi and Khamoshiyan with his band, and produced Thik Bhul for the movie Kolkata SOS.

Such virtual ventures were also not the best news for their pockets. “Since the gigs were online, clients expected us to perform for free, just because we are entertainers,” Kushal elaborated. “Not all the events were ticketed and the budgets were lower. In terms of revenue, concerts during the unlock period have remained the same, except some rare requests ask you to charge less in the lieu of restrictions.”

The online engagement also becomes difficult when the venture pursued is not necessarily mainstream. “Bollywood has a very strong impact on the Indian audience, due to which, people engage more with singers as opposed instruments. It becomes a question of ‘what song did they sing?’. When you are playing instruments, it is the music that communicates with the audience as opposed to the singer. There however is a market for both, but the audience for both is different,” said Jeson Mariano Jose Filipe (singer/ keyboardist/ music producer/ whisky appreciator) a writing-producing collaborator with Lokesh and several other artistes and plans to release his original tracks soon.

“The world as it was will take some time to come back, but on the brighter side travelling and gigs in certain places has already started. If we survive this, we artistes will be eager to give our best as and when it happens with hunger to perform. For the gigs being performed currently, I ensure the sanitization, temperature checks and quarantine measures, but once we are on the stage, we make sure to have fun,” said Amarabha Banerjee (singer/ songwriter/ composer/ lead singer of Ehsaas) releasing his song Umra Bhar and writing-composing Khidki during the lockdown.

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