Musicians are now taking their art on digital platforms to combat the despair of the pandemic-resultant lockdown
Whether it was the band on the Titanic, playing away into the night to calm passengers on it as the ship sank around them, or the collective that was We are the world sung by a horde of world-class musicians including the eternally alive Michael Jackson, music has held a mirror to the world, reflecting the happenings-around, transforming society, sometimes inspiring in its wake.
In India, too, 18 stalwarts of the Indian music industry including legends such as Asha Bhosle, S.P. Balasubraniam and Yesudas, and senior playback artistes such as Udit Narayan, Kumar Shanu and Alka Yagnik came together recently to connect the country through Sangeet Setu, an online music session.
It aimed to send out notes of calm and inspiration to uplift emotions while encouraging everyone to keep practising social distancing through the pandemic and lockdown days.
Now, even more Indian musicians are coming together on social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube with more heart-rendering melody, through the song 'Muskurayega India'.
Notes of positivity
Singer Kailash Kher, the brain behind Sangeet Setu, says he believes there’s nothing more effective than music to bring people together.
“This is the first time in history that renowned musicians and singers from across the country participated in a virtual concert, with over 30 crore people watching it online.
After listening to legends such as S.P. Balasubramaniam and K.J. Yesudas, many became nostalgic and emotional. I’d like to believe that musicians through Indian Singers Right Association (ISRA) and Sangeet Setu have spread positivity,” says Kailash, comparing the effect of the melody to when Lata Mangeshkar sang the song Ae mere vatan ke logon in 1962.
Singing away one’s blues has been an age-old practice. Neuroscience has also pointed to music as uplifting one’s emotions using the reward centres of our brain, stimulating hits of dopamine, a chemical in our brains, which makes us feel good.
Additionally, music creates a sense of belonging. “Music has many qualities that help tackle anxiety and depression,” pitches in Shashi Preetam, music director, singer-songwriter and music producer.
“One can experience it even through background music scores in films. Music elevates the feelings of love, comedy, fear, sorrow, inspiration, etc. It has a profound impact on not only humans but also animals and plants.”
Dharini Upadhyaya, co-founder and CEO, Furtados School of Music, also points out to studies that have shown how music can uplift one’s mood and fend off depression.
“It can also improve blood flow just as statins lower your levels of stress-related hormones such as cortisol and eases pain. Music is an important part of our life as it is a way of expressing our feelings as well as emotions,” says Dharini.
Together in this, online
For those wondering how art can be priority when the world’s facing such an existential crisis, sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee shares his perspective.
“Music and art are like proverbial mirrors we look into to realise our souls. They’re our fallback, more than ever, in times of adversity, penury, heartbreak and pandemics,” he says.
“Imagine being quarantined without a book to read, movies to watch et al. So, contrary to some people thinking that arts and entertainment should take a backseat during such crises, I feel there is a bigger need than ever before for people to listen to music and watch films things that keep motivating them to go on with their lives while fighting the virus and its ill-effects.”
Ironically, despite criticisms on its negative influence on people, the Internet and its offshoots such as social media platforms has lessened the discomforts of social distancing during the contagion.
So, while social distancing and self-quarantining have been making live performances all but impossible, the Internet has incited an explosion in livestreamed concerts and online community for music lovers.
Purbayan Chatterjee, for instance, has created a platform called the Musicians DigiStage, an online community of those attached to the music industry.
“I’ve started an online talk-show called Brave New World around an international perspective on how the industry needs to adapt and evolve. Some of the esteemed celebrity guests in it include Bombay Jayashri, Pankaj Udhas, George Brooks and Ustad Taufiq Qureshi,” says Purbayan.
Anup Rubens, Tollywood music composer, admits to being bored through the lockdown-quarantine life, “Yet, despite my audiences being home, I and many artistes like me are still able to connect through music and songs.”