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The crime against music: shady side of local entertainment

When Indian heartthrob musician Armaan Malik performed - the venue was jam packed with eager fans and music lovers. | Photo: Ahmed Shurau \ Avas

We all love to hate on the frivolous attempts by local movie producers, directors and actors in trying to make a product for the mass audience - snarky remarks, heavy criticism and down right slandering is commonly aimed at the ones involved in the industry.

Ideally the locals have a love-hate relationship going on with their entertainers.

Some artists are hailed and pampered by the community as a whole reaching to celebrity status in a well regarded way while the others are made to breach through a sense of notoriety that often places them in a critical stand-point as artists.

Most of us have and had seen their interviews and tete-a-tete on television screen and we almost, are led to believe how much they pursue and promote in uplifting the standards of local entertainment industry - be it corporate, professional wise or simply out of sheer passion.

While most of us mock at their attempts others applaud them, and through their tumultuous efforts many big league movie producers and directors etch out products for the local mass to entertain over.

Often scrutinized, criticized and labeled 'black' are the local musicians; singers, composers and producers alike.

To talk about hostile nature of religious targeting towards them is an issue for another day, but for now the entire concept of under-appreciation, under-valuing and mistreatment is the talk. To begin where it is supposed to, we need to look at the importance of infusing musical scores, numbers and songs into televised content.

Boduberu - traditional Maldivian drum - is the heart and soul of every music festival and music industry of Maldives. | Photo: Ahmed Shurau \ Avas

It is widely understood that any animated or moving visual material is categorized 'incomplete' if it lacks music in any form or relevance. It is the essence of the multimedia and the backbone of entertainment contents; people like Hans Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi or James Horner had proved it to us with their sheer brilliance.

You hum to the opening theme of HBO's hit "Game Of Thrones", you added a trick listing of Zimmer's work from Inception or Interstellar while you still feel moved to the core when you hit the rhythm of Titanic's score. These works were done by the above mentioned maestros and you would have a clear idea of how crucial an element music is to movies or similar material in projecting out the maximum impact or effect.

That is Hollywood - and we know that with all the whitewashing traditions and several unscrupulous practices, is the largest contributor of pop culture and entertainment. Their boom from the roots of Noir and bootleg era jazz with Gambino family biopics to a plethora of James Bond flicks and whole lot of running by one Tom Cruise, did not progress without its downfalls and discrimination.

Even dancers fall through the cracks from receiving proper recognition or appreciation but rather are used as filler pieces in festivals exclusively. | Photo: Ahmed Shurau \ Avas

But they have long since jumped on appreciating musicians and music composers since they took a formal understanding of how relevant sound or sound effect is in creating movies of substance.

Something which we feel is understood, comprehended and practiced here in the Maldivian entertainment industry.

Sad fact of the matter is that the tradition is a far cry from what we have been led to believe.

"Movie producers contact us out of nowhere and request us to produce songs or score. We ask them for details, the theme of the song and location and even the dynamics or chemistry of the actors or performers involved, the tone or setting of the song or color palette of it. But we are slammed with 'its a love song' or 'its a high tempo song' along with 'I want you to do exactly like this and like that' sometimes they ask us to copy from foreign songs or scores. We do not support it but we cater for the demands of producers."

A distinctively famous music composer with the experience of singing and grooming fresh talents throughout the years, had shared personal experiences.

"Oh and we get just MVR 2,000 for it. We are lucky if we get MVR 5,000" he said.

This not only added another string of amusing frustration to the already unsettling malpractice in the Maldivian entertainment industry, but much to the chagrin of singers and composers alike it also meant that their work was highly under valued.

Another vocalist who had spared time and voice for some movies had noted about the relative low salary and complained of not subjected for a demand on pay.

"Been in industry for several years now and most of the time I get a call unexpectedly asking to sing for a movie and we get a short span to work on it. So we quote based on all those factors, say 10,000 Rufiyaa. But they would deny this and tell to our face that is way too high, some would say its just singing and not so much of work is required for it. If so, why aren't they doing it?" sipping a hot Double Espresso the ecstatic female singer poured out her frustration.

"I have witnessed several fresh talents from these competitions and have personally mentored them. The advice I give is simply not to walk the same path we did, we are reduced to singing copies and even if we ask them to provide us with time to generate fresh and genuine materials, they would discard those sentiments telling songs are just 'fillers'. You would be surprised be surprised on some of the mindsets this nation's top named producers and directors keep towards the musical aspect in a movie. While it is changing gradually, it still is a gray area too. I tell these new kids that in this country, the best possible route a musician, singer or a band can take is to seek opportunities from resorts and such, where there is a decent tradition of valuing artists," a music composer and mentor presented his experience.

The laments of musicians over the continuous under-appreciation from intertwined or associated mediums of entertainment is one reason why several artists are placing themselves under hiatus.

"We don't have record houses, arts and music institutes or proper camps or any specific institution's undivided attention in promoting and maintaining a flow of musicians who can earn money and respect while doing what they love. But I would like to note that NCA pushes to help artists to thrive for progress," a veteran who's blood sang songs of the early drums and sounds of waves, spoke about the condition of music industry.

The industry falls under further criticism due to the prejudice of commoners towards musicians.

"When Jimmy Page or Slash bangs their head and flashes the rock sign, literally ripping the guitar off that is regarded awesome and cool. We do that, we are looked down upon and most of the people look at us as if we are delinquents," a very young and talented musician, who has been a friendly face in several resorts spoke, adding "and then comes the mindset of these movie directors and producers. I have personally been send off from meetings for quoting a price than ranged between 7,000 to 10,000 but that is actually quite cheap. You should know we are investing our time and a lot of effort into crafting music, also when it comes to composing music for movies I am all down for creating genuine music instead of ripping off from Bollywood."

Several musicians have, for years been the target of a tradition that places them as mules with no power of bargaining.

Those were the sentiments of a few of them who underlined the trend of undermining musicians while many high profile movie creators have seemingly disregarded to adapt the notion of infusing proper music into crafting good visual material.

Change is slow, but some assure that change is on its way. It is only in time we would know what hand the entertainment industry as a whole has to deal on the musical aspect. But what can be said for sure is this relative malpractice and undervaluing the work of musicians is a crime against arts.

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