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Guest column: Are musicians treated as part of the furniture?

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In 2013 I was playing at a post-wedding dinner when an uncle came to me ??100 in the bell of my saxophone. It was funny but also ridiculous and defied the basic civility acceptable to musicians, especially at a wedding or private party.

The disrespect for musicians begins at home. My own group saw three people leave because their parents had a problem with them playing wedding shows. Digs like “When won’t you be playing wedding shows?” Are in abundance. Because historically and culturally, India has always despised the musicians who usually played at court. This is the environment musicians grew up in as well, and if the musicians themselves don’t respect the culture of wedding concerts, you can’t expect it from the audience!

I have spent the last 14 years playing commercial music and the point is, weddings and private concerts pay a lot more than other concerts.

But they come with their own shenanigans. My group and I have been asked to use different toilets in the performance halls and there is a separate menu for performers in the venues – a cost saving technique. At weddings, we are told that there are only a limited number of plates. Now I put everything on paper, including F&B, and if they can’t serve the musicians, they reimburse us for a meal. However, you have to remember that a wedding concert is work at the end of the day. You are there to be part of the vibe sometimes, which is unfortunate. But if you can’t do it, then don’t!

You have to be mentally strong to keep doing wedding gigs. After my set at a wedding at a Manesar hotel in 2012, a drunk uncle came up to me and pulled out a gun, asking me to play a song. He took me for the DJ!

Getting paid is another headache. During a reception at an IAS officer, I had to pay him ??5,000 because he claimed my father had two pints of alcohol served there. At another gig in Gurgaon, I did an extra 45 minute set at the request of the host, but got paid seven months later after statements like “Payment chod, main thappad maarne waala hun”Were launched while a member of the group was having a drink.

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

Musicians will be discouraged. Some are now trying to become more popular than creative. Because the thought is “if a person knows who I am, he will not be disrespectful”.

As said to Karishma Kuenzang

Abhay Sharma is a Delhi-based musician who has performed with Shankar Mahadevan, in addition to leading his own group, The Revisit Project.

From Brunch HT, September 26, 2021

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