Western musicians on the downbeat! | Sunday Observer

Western musicians on the downbeat!

Fabion Bonnie Paul
Fabion Bonnie Paul

The current Covid-19 pandemic has caused a paradigm shift in the way people in Sri Lanka and internationally work, and in lifestyles. Year 2020 is becoming a turning point for business, with many winners and losers. Industries linked to the IT industry see a whole world of new opportunities open up for them, for example, Courier Pick-Up and Delivery Services, Ecommerce platforms and the telecom industry are obvious winners.

The pharmaceutical and healthcare industry as well as education could be called in-betweens, who have the potential to grow exponentially. On the other side of the coin, other industries have been affected in varying degrees. Manufacturing, oil and gas, sports, cinema and the film industry rank among those badly affected by the virus.

The travel and leisure industry is in the doldrums and will remain so for some time, with a slow recovery predicted. Along with the downturn in the leisure industry, related industries too get hurt. Music plays a key role in the leisure industry - ranging from lobby musicians, to musicians in restaurants, night clubs, weddings, corporate functions and concerts.

Many leisure industry organisations use musicians as a pivot for increasing sales and profit. Social distancing norms have put this entire industry into a different perspective, causing a catch-22 situation. The top Western musicians and bands in Sri Lanka are banded together as members of the Western Musicians Association.

The Sunday Observer sought the views of the President of the Western Musicians Association - Fabion Bonnie Paul, who gave us a run down of the current situation and a positive look into the future. He says “The industry has come to a complete standstill with bands, trios and solo musicians and singers unable to source work and perform in Colombo and country wide, along with the musicians unable to continue with overseas contracts and tours. The Western Musicians Association (WMA) has several hundred musicians and bands within its membership”.

Fabion continues, “We all have to look forward with hope and prayer for a light at the end of this tunnel. The hospitality business will be among the last to resume, and with a new norm and control measures in place.

The WMA is currently preparing to conduct workshops with our members on best practices of social distancing for the safety of band members and the audience. We envisage hotel lobbies and private functions to kick off first, and our workshops will focus on these areas as a first step.

Workshops for sound suppliers will focus on safe practices and methodologies in operation, and will also include disinfection of sound equipment. We plan to video these sessions to share with hoteliers, bar and restaurant owners to demonstrate our commitment to working within the new norm in order to support their business and help them get on track faster.

“We are aware that the revival of the industry will be dependent on Government guidelines and the commitment and discipline of the general public to maintain social distancing and other precautions to stop the spread of the virus”, he said.

Fabion said, “During the lockdown we have reached out to our members in dire straits via our WhatsApp thread. We are thankful to the Police, the Forces and Manusath Derana, who collaborated with us to provide dry rations to many of our members in need. Six members including four Ex-Co members were on the roads delivering these in areas which were permitted.

“The WMA will encourage and support the hotels and bars to hold functions at outdoor venues, within the framework of social distancing, in the fresh air.

Following the success of the WMA’s recent Sundown Jam concert, we will look at organising more concerts in open air venues to provide more opportunities for bands and musicians to get on stage; when gatherings are permitted.”

He said, “We are working hand-in-hand with the SLSA (Sri Lanka Singers Association) to help our members obtain Government relief measures extended to the industry - to actors, entertainers, musicians, singers and any artist within the entertainment industry, who has suffered a loss of income due to the pandemic. We have also joined hands with the EMA (Event Managers Association) in the sphere of Corporate Functions.”

Following the Easter attacks last year and the present Covid-19 pandemic, the WMA, in consultation with registered leading band leaders, are actively working on a long term medical scheme and support for its registered members in times of medical need, he said.