Festive season begins..But melody artistes stare at a bleak future in Odisha

Many orchestra artistes have resorted to small-scale farming and vegetable vending as part-time profession to make their ends meet.

Bhubaneswar/Cuttack: The upcoming Dussehra is going to be a quiet affair, unlike its previous editions.

Though the Odisha Government has eased restrictions to give a fillip to economic activities in line with the Centre’s guidelines on COVID-19, some sectors are yet to get the much-needed reprieve.

Around this time of the year, orchestra troupes in the Twin City of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar could be seen rehearsing for their back-to-back scheduled events for Dussehra. But this festive season starting Ganesh Puja has turned out to be a damp squib for the bands. Courtesy: the Orissa High Court’s directive which disallowed public gathering at a place with over six persons, apart from other strictures.

Artistes of such troupes, who remain busy with events throughout the year except July and August months due to monsoon, were already hit by the COVID-19 induced lockdown with the Government restricting all cultural events for every occasion, including marriage. The recently-issued advisory regarding observance of Dussehra with restriction on public participation and cultural activities has only added to their woes.

Musicians, who are solely dependent on this profession for their livelihood prioritizing their art, have now started looking for alternative means of income for sustenance. Many of them have resorted to small-scale farming and vegetable vending as part-time profession to make their ends meet. Some even have sold off their instruments to manage their expenses.

Nearly 70 registered orchestra troupes are there in the Twin City and each troupe has around 20 members, including sound staff, on an average. All the troupes wait for the festive season beginning Ganesh Puja. Even a small troupe gets 50-60 gig bookings while a front-line melody party manages to get 80 to 100 shows between Ganesh Puja and December 31. And, each troupe is paid a minimum of Rs 35,000 per show. The artistes will suffer for one and a-half years owing to the shutdowns and lockdowns, said Odisha Melody Association Secretary and Organizer of Sargam Orchestra Shyam Kumar.

I had never seen such a crisis before. Cultural activities get suspended for few days, in case any natural calamity occurs. But this COVID-19 pandemic has hit the artistes the hardest making their lives miserable, he expressed.

Around 80 % members of the melody troupes earn livelihood through their art and this pandemic has wiped out their entire source of income. Finding no option, many of them are now forced to do away with this profession and struggling hard to run their family, said singer Sanat Panigrahi, a native of Bargarh district and currently pursuing a management course in a private college in Sambalpur.

“We do not even have any accreditation like other artistes. People get to know us through our performance only. So we cannot even claim for financial assistance from the Government. But the Government should allow us to perform to help us earn our livelihood,” said the singer.


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