While the popularity of musicians is widely recognised, little is known about the challenges they face while trying to making a living from music
NEWS

Guwahati musicians initiate #bandkranti for pay hike     

Bands take to social media to highlight issues; may even decide to boycott event organisers, pubs if demands not met

A file photo of On the Rocks, a Guwahati-based band
A file photo of On the Rocks, a Guwahati-based band
EastMojo Image

Guwahati: If it keeps on raining levee's gointo break -- legendary band Led Zeppelin’s song couldn’t have been more true for the local musicians of Guwahati in Assam, whose long-pending demands for payment hike have now reached a boiling point.

While the popularity of musicians is widely recognised, little is known about the challenges they face while trying to making a living from music.

In order to highlight their issues and to make their voices reach out to the organisers and venue owners of the city, several musicians are now taking to social media.

It all started when Vijay Chetry, guitarist with a Guwahati-based band, Jupiter Island, started a campaign, #bandkranti, on social media. The idea was to deliver their demands to the organisers and owners of pubs where they mostly get to play.

Incidentally, what started as a social media campaign, #bandkranti is gradually taking the shape of a revolution of sorts after several bands, who are suffering from the same plight, are joining hands while taking to Facebook and Twitter with their messages.

Chetry told EastMojo: “This is simply about delivering something that is our rightful pay. We dedicate our entire life to music; but eventually, when we try to make a living from music, there is hardly any recognition. A band is paid around Rs 8,000 for a full set live performance while the preparation that goes behind costs us even more. Eventually we end up spending from our pockets. There are expenses such as jam pad charges, travel and equipment maintenance, among several others. So this is the time we need to act and make our opinion heard”.

He also went on to say that this task cannot be done by one person alone but will require the support of several bands.

Screenshot of one of the posts shared by Vijay Chetry, guitarist of Jupiter Island, on Facebook
Screenshot of one of the posts shared by Vijay Chetry, guitarist of Jupiter Island, on Facebook
EastMojo image

Sameer Baishnab, former vocalist of Bluetooth and currently involved in a project Doorbin also echoed similar views. Speaking to EastMojo, Baishnab said, “This is something that cannot be achieved single-handedly but we will need the support of other musicians as well. I can understand the state of despair of the newer bands due to lack of open-air shows and the opportunities but if we do not come to a resolution now, it will only make situation even worse. The slab of Rs 8,000 has remained unchanged for over seven years now. If we do not come to a conclusion now, the only probable solution will be to boycott performing in such pubs.”

Sarfaraj Hussain, guitarist of Colossal Corp. said that the matter will require a formal approach. “The bands that have come together so far are Jupiter Island, Colossal Corp., Lady Midday, Swadhyay and a handful of others. We will have a proper discussion and try to come to a legal solution,” Hussain added.

Screenshot of a post shared by one of the musicians of Guwahati
Screenshot of a post shared by one of the musicians of Guwahati
EastMojo image

It is also being perceived that middlemen are hampering the scenario. However, venue owners dismissed any such assertion.

Gautam Choudhury, co-owner of Urban Mantra said the entertainment segment is looked after by a programmer who is paid a salary. “While there are upcoming bands who do not care much about the monetary segment but the established band have certain demands and we do respect that. We have been having bands from outside as well as locals and we always promote original music and if the bands approach us we are open to discussion,” shared Gautam.

Similar views were aired by Arzoo Ahmed, co-owner of Café Hendrix, that was “founded with the motive of promoting local bands”. “However, it is the organisers or the band managers who deal with the bands as they have a better understanding of how things work. We, on the other hand, always look forward to promote the bands. We do try to give a sizeable amount, but we also have a budget, be it the local bands or the regional or bands from outside. Exploiting the bands can never be our agenda. We respect the musicians not just because of the business but the talent that has inspired us to start this place,” he added.