TN musicians reeling under Covid blow as marriage parties halve their fees

Marriages in Tamil Nadu are synonymous with traditional music, both during the wedding and at the reception.

The traditional musicians who play ‘Nadaswaram’ and ‘Thavil drums’ generally charge Rs 20,000 to 25,000 for a four-member team for a four to five-hour performance. They were in high demand all through the marriage season.

However, the Covid-induced lockdowns led to several restrictions on all marriages and public functions, affecting the lives of these musicians.

Kannan Perumal, a traditional ‘Nadaswaram’ player who makes a living by playing the instrument during marriages and other public functions, is at a loss of words on the predicament his community is facing, despite marriages now being held without any restrictions on the participation of guests.

He said they generally move as a team of four and charge a marriage party anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 25,000.

They were in high demand, getting jobs almost round the clock. But the Covid-19 pandemic altered everything, as marriages and public functions were put on hold.

The traditional musicians and their families had to starve for want of jobs and revenue.

Manikantan (51), a traditional musician, said the situation hasn’t improved much even though most of the restrictions have now been lifted.

Speaking to IANS, he said, “We are in dire straits even after the government allowed all marriages to be conducted with full participation of guests, because marriage parties have now started bargaining for our fees, which have been reduced by half of what we got in pre-Covid days.”

He said the marriage parties are not paying more than Rs 10,000 for a traditional music team.

Sathyanesan, a marriage hall owner in Kanyakumari, told IANS, “We have to bargain with the traditional musicians as most of the marriage parties ask us to do so. We don’t have any other choice but to bargain with these traditional musicians.”

The sceretary of Tiruppur District Marriage Hall Owners Association, P. Logannathan, told IANS, “Traditional musicians are an integral part of our culture. They are sought after by the marriage parties to be present in the reception. But after the restrictions were lifted, the marriage parties commenced bargaining with the traditional musicians as most of the families witnessed a cut in their earnings.”

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