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In the time of Covid-19: Song sung blue

Payel Majumdar Upreti | Updated on March 27, 2020

Positive spin: Those looking for a laugh can turn to Baba Sehgal singing Namaste, a corona-special song - KR Deepak   -  The Hindu

Neil Diamond has tweaked an old hit; Baba Sehgal is out with a new single. Musicians are killing the virus softly — with their song

The Edinburgh music festival looks iffy this year. Heck, the Olympics won’t be held till 2021, and the Indian Premier League (IPL) stands postponed. And if all this is not bad enough, the whisper goes that the latest season of the much-awaited show Mirzapur may be put off.

The gloomy news has just been piling on. When not checking coronavirus statistics, what do you do but twiddle your thumbs in misery?

Let the digits be, for a lot is happening all around you. Artistes are doing what they can to bring cheer into cloistered lives. Many have rallied online to ensure that they do not deprive the world of music, art and literature. Several have used the internet to reach out to an online audience, with the use of Instagram and Facebook live concerts.

The World Health Organization, in partnership with Australia-based Global Citizen, got together several icons of the entertainment industry, and arranged for live cultural performances on Instagram Live. The series is called Together at Home, and is available on Global Citizen’s YouTube and Instagram.

Smartphone concert: The Together at Home series of virtual concerts kicked off on March 16 with a performance by Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin   -  Reuters

 

The series kicked off on March 16 with Coldplay’s lead Chris Martin, singer John Legend (along with his wife Chrissy Teigen) and pop star Charlie Puth performing from their respective homes. Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra Jonas made an appearance on March 20, as did One Direction member Niall Horan and American rapper/activist Common. Among the others featured so far in the series were British indie musician Hozier (of Take Me to Church fame), pop stars Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, boy band One Republic, French singer-songwriter Christine and the Queens, American R&B star Miguel, Colombian musician Juanes and Jamaican musician Ziggy Marley, son of Bob Marley. (Listen to the Together at Home concerts at youtube.com/user/GlobalPovertyProject/videos or, refer to this list of concerts live-streamed from across the world complied by American music critic Alex Ross on www.therestisnoise.com.)

Music can be heard across the world — from behind closed doors. When Germany went into lockdown mode, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra performed and streamed an entire concert on March 12 — without an audience.

The empty hall resounded with the sound of Italian composer Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia, composed after the assassination of American civil rights leader Michael Luther King Jr. The orchestra then went on to play Hungarian composer Bela Bertok’s Concerto for Orchestra, which had premiered in Berlin during World War II in 1944. The orchestra has also made its archives free for a month.

There are others who have put pen to paper, egged on by the virus. In a poem called Lockdown, UK’s poet laureate Simon Armitage refers to the Meghadūta, an epic poem by Kālidāsa, where a king’s exiled subject pleads with a cloud to convey a message to his beloved wife.

“…the journey a ponderous one at times, long and slow/ but necessarily so,” Armitage writes.

Closer home, with bars and nightclubs shut, doom has descended on the indie music scene. An open letter published by a group of dance music artistes from across the world implored readers to “#Save the Scene” by buying music and merchandise, skipping refunds to cancelled events, and donating to local clubs.

“This is a time for introspection for everyone, including musicians, about how underpaid and unappreciated artistes really are, how the vicious cycle of freely available entertainment online hurts the industry and ends up keeping artistes in penury, so that even two weeks without a job can leave many without a safety net,” Mohammed Abood Uraibi, aka DJ Mo City, one of the founders of the Indian band Reggae Rajahs, tells BLink.

Musician Deepak Castelino, one of the members of the Sufi band Chaar Yaar, feels for the independent musician, too.

Creative buzz: Musician Deepak Castelino, one of the members of the Sufi band Chaar Yaar, says he has been composing much more than usual

 

“My concerns are with the artistes who are still waiting for payments. But then, this is also a great time for art. Ironically, there is great art that comes out of misery,” Castelino tells BLink. “I myself have been composing much more than usual. This is also because I have finally been spending time at home,” says the musician, whose guitar tune Lockdown 21 is among a host of new compositions on his Facebook page.

Those looking for a laugh can turn to Baba Sehgal singing Namaste, a corona-special song. “Sab stop ho gaya/ Sensex drop ho gaya/ mat karo tum itna panic/ doob jaayegi fir Titanic (Everything has stopped/Sensex has dropped/ Don’t panic/ It will be like the Titanic),” he has rapped in a new single.

“I felt that I should not make a song about such a sensitive topic, but then I realised that everyone needed to lighten up a little and not be morose,” Sehgal says. Musicians Bappi Lahiri and Kailash Kher are also out with corona-special songs.

Hindustani classical singer Sandeep Ranade has his own take on the situation. In a composition in raag Basant, he tells his digital audience — through a video that’s gone viral — “Na-coro-na-coro/ suno meri baat/ Na milaao haath (No corona/ Heed my words/ Don’t shake hands).”

Clearly, artistes across the world are determined not to let the virus dampen spirits. Take the singer of such golden oldies as Song sung blue. American Neil Diamond has just released a clip where he is seen singing a new version of his hit Sweet Caroline.

“Hands, touching hands/Reaching out, touching me, touching you,” he sang in 1969. The new version wants none of that.

“Hands... washing hands... reaching out... don’t touch me, I won’t touch you,” he sings half a century later.

Published on March 27, 2020

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