The orphaned Goan musician, artiste

Fredrick Noronha | MAY 14, 2024, 12:53 AM IST

What happens when the people of a region feel orphaned, or that there’s nobody to protect their own interest in their own state? This happens in many parts of India, and can be felt in Goa as well too.  But, mostly we don’t take note...

Only over the last few days, one could see how acutely this was being felt in certain quarters.  Musicians, tiatrists and other creative persons raised their voice in protest. They felt on their own, un-cared for, and left in the lurch.

At one level, it could seem that such appeals are a cry for undue benefits. For mollycoddling. Coming from an artist fighting to face a competitive field.

But the point the artistes are making is also true. If they don’t get support from their own state, who will offer them a place to stand on?

Musicians have been making this point for some time now. If they can’t benefit from the events going on in the state, what’s the point?

Journalist-musician Sigmund de Souza commented bluntly on this trend, which kind of makes the point well. He wrote:

“I was at the Cashew Festival...I really enjoyed Mark Revlon’s performance. Then it rained. After the rain break they put on a guy named Ash King for two hours. I checked the three-day programme. On all three days they have closed the show with outside bands, i.e. Hindi music bands. The cashew festival should represent the spirit of Goa. Does Hindi music represent the spirit of Goa?

“Why should our government departments spend Goan taxpayer money to promote outside bands which are already rich and famous, when we have thousands of fantastic Goan bands and musicians who can do with some exposure?

“Goa is a dot on the map of India. Those Hindi music bands have loads of concerts all over the country and earn in crores. Our Goan bands and musicians will never get such opportunities and earn peanuts. Now they are being kept out of even our own Goan festivals? This behaviour on the part of our government is condemnable. I appeal to all Goan musicians and bands to protest against what is going on with these government-sponsored festivals.”

“Music is a powerful means of connecting people. It bridges linguistic and cultural divides, and is a vehicle for identity and expression like no other. Collectively, the music ecosystem generates rich social, cultural and economic benefits,” as Amy Terrill and Alex Jacob wrote in the WIPO Magazine some time back.

A report available online, called The Mastering of a Music City, argued for the potential for music-led growth. It cites the experience of Nashville, Tennessee. It said: “A Music City, by its simplest definition, is a place with a vibrant music economy. There is growing recognition among governments and other stakeholders that Music Cities can deliver significant economic, employment, cultural and social benefits.”

Music Cities can help in many ways: job creation, economic growth, tourism development, city brand-building, and artistic growth. But, to make this happen, some key strategies are needed.  Including:

- Music-friendly and musician-friendly policies

-A Music Office or Officer

- A Music Advisory Board

- Engaging the broader music community to get their buy-in and support

- Music needs a home; access to spaces and places

- Audience development

- Music tourism

Together with this, there would perhaps be need for not irritating too many people with issues like noise pollution.

But it’s not musicians alone who are feeling the pinch. The other day, stage actors were complaining. In particular, they were upset over the changes made in the Kala Academy, and how this was affecting their work and performances.

An actor from the Konkani natak stage lashed out against the authorities, for the way in which the Kala Academy, Goa’s premier centre for the performing arts, was being maintained.  Some pointed to how the sound was tacky and faulty.  This, ironically, happened after so many crores being spent on redoing the infrastructure.

Listening to this discussion online, tiatr producers, directors and actors, who are another key sector using these facilities, blamed themselves for not speaking out enough, to highlight the abysmal situation.

At some point, an unresponsive political class -- worse still if it takes the electorate for granted, and allows corruption to go unchecked -- will affect so many sections of the population.

Things do not end there.

Even in the world of the written word and literature-creation, there is so little State support or encouragement for those wanting to enter the field. Instead of encouraging more potential writers to enter the field, there is discouragement.

Sometime in the 1990s, the Fundação Oriente, the Portuguese cultural foundation, would offer small grants to writers who wanted to self-publish their books. Later, the Goa Government’s Directorate of Arts and Culture started a parallel scheme. The Portuguese organisation shut down its scheme.

Currently, the DoAC scheme has now changed; it doesn’t help where it is needed the most. This is not to say that money and grants alone can promote local creativity. A lot more (or different things) could help.

For one, we need politicians and policy planners to understand the importance of this field.  Secondly, there can be no short-cuts when it comes to encouraging local talent. There can be any number of excuses to hire big names from out-of-State; but what’s the point?

If you want to build cultural capital with talent from outside the region, whom does it benefit? That sounds more like Cultural Colonialism, however popular Bollywood music might be.

Other forms of encouragement can go a long way. Spaces which are unused (or under-utilised) can be used to promote creativity. The creativity community needs to be engaged, and given a home (as pointed out above). Audiences need to be built. Decisions have to be taken in the interest of promoting local talent and encouraging it to grow. These should not be kept in the hands of one or another’s whimsical tastes and judgements.

Get local talent on the local calendar. Build links with cultural spaces or public parks and gardens. Local communities can do their bit too. Clubs and school halls can be deployed as spaces for performances and talent building; we all know that the popular Konkani tiatrs need many more spaces for performance.

We need our artistes. puts it well, from another part of the world. It comments: “Artists are some of the most passionate people you’ll ever meet. They are the people that want to make your community proud. Their work is deeply personal to them and they want to make sure it matters when it’s done. Artists in your local community are going to be the ones using their artwork to affect change in your area the most.”

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