At a time when the world was gearing for a lockdown due to a pandemic, Kashmir was already grappling under political uncertainty. However for musicians and artists, COVID-19 pandemic was a turning point. In Kashmir, artists say they have had to reimagine their lives and their art.
Prominent singer and composer, Muneer Ahmad Mir, told Greater Kashmir that loss of outdoor shows often means musicians take more inside work. But the large-scale dissolution of the gig economy for artists during lockdown has meant a radical sea change. Like so many other creators, Mir has had to reimagine his life, his career, and his art.
"Kashmir has witnessed a paradigm shift in every sector and the creative industry was the worst hit. However when we saw there is no end to the pandemic, we too had to reinvent ourselves,” he says.
“Except facebook, I didn’t have any social media handle but then I realized if you have to stay relevant and connected to the art, you have to your presence in these platforms,” he says.
Another noted music director and singer, Jaan Nissar Lone says that “Pandemic has taught us many lessons. I have been living in Mumbai for a decade now and it during the pandemic that I got a chance to return to my roots and reinvent myself into our style of the genre,” Lone says.
“You become incredibly grateful for basic human needs and for the soul food that sustains you," he says.
Lone who has started his own record label, says that it was highly important to get Kashmiri music recognized at a bigger platform.
“Now artists talk of followers, verified accounts, and also generating business online and we did the same. We have done a couple of songs and have been able to shot a few of them during pandemic. They will be released soon. We hope to generate some business for us and the artists as well through our platforms,” he says.
Lone says as a musician—he would be as well equipped to deal with it as anyone.
Famous singer and composer, Waheed Jeelani, says pandemic has disrupted the creative lives of everyday Kashmiri who used to spend untold hours together singing and making art. He caught hold of the famed Kashmiri music artists—who came together for the first-ever virtual concert in the Valley during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic—that mesmerized the audience globally.
Named 'Qarar' (Solace), the three-hour (6-9 pm) concert by Kashmiri vocalists and instrumentalists on Facebook was hold to cheer people up.
“We got overwhelming from the listeners across the globe,” Jeelani says. “However after some time, it couldn’t sustain because of lack of support.”
“There were viewers connected from all across the globe—mostly our Kashmir diaspora. That was it was a great beginning of a humble initiative which not only brought artists in distress together but also connected the people, living during this pandemic.” "The idea came because of the lockdown. We wanted to connect with people, provide some solace to their hearts in these times when art and entertainment got affected, and also give some livelihood to the artists associated with our projects," he says.
The singer says the idea was to keep the art and culture alive and launch a platform for artists as art gatherings are unlikely to be allowed even after the lockdown is lifted.
‘Performing At Distance’
In a few short months, the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down movie sets, stopped global concert tours, and pushed famous names to the sidelines. And it has also disrupted the creative lives of millions of others whose names might never have appeared on a marquee. With bookstores and cafes closed, poetry readings have moved online. Musicians have lost their incomes and their ability to compose with their ensembles, they sing alone. Many galleries, musical ensembles, have moved their works and performances online.
“The pandemic came as an unexpected blow to the arts. Music gigs went online and culture spaces had to reinvent how they would engage their audiences from a distance,” noted Bollywood singer, Richa Sharma told Greater Kashmir.
“I was overwhelmed to learn during my recent trip to Kashmir about the independent artists who doing an amazing job of recording their at their home studio and releasing it big.” “They know how to make music at home, and now we can do just that and release a month later.”
Singer and Songwriter, Aabha Hanjura, says that pandemic has provided an insight into one’s creative life. “I launched my own record label. I am an independent artist and I don’t work for any label. However, during pandemic, I reinvented myself and started working as a lyricist.”
In an exciting the statement, this is a trend that music platforms like Spotify and JioSaavn have observed. “This year we have noticed an increase in the streams for indie music as well as regional language music released by independent artists,” said the spokesperson of JioSaavn in a media report, an audio streaming platform owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries.
“We attribute this rise to two factors – the lack of big-budget films being released and people exploring and engaging with new music during the lockdown.”
Low skilled IT jobs in India at risk
India’s leading information technology (IT) lobby, NASSCOM, and analysts at Bank of America are sparring over how many employees in the sector are set to lose their jobs this year. Whether it's half a million or three million, ‘low skilled’ IT jobs are under threat of automation — and even the executives recognise this.
Bank of America has estimated that Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, HCL Tech, Wipro, Tech Mahindra, Cognizant and others will see a 30% reduction in ‘low-skilled’ jobs globally by 2022 because of robot process automation (RPA).
The global financial services company gauged that around 9 million people are employed in such roles in India, which means 3 million — one third of the total — will find themselves unemployed by the end of the year.
NASSCOM has hit back saying that only 1.5 million people are employed in low-skilled and BPO roles, not 9 million. Which means, even if there are to be job losses, at the same rate as Bank of America is predicting, they may only amount to around half a million.
However, the IT lobby asserts that the sector will be a net creation of jobs in the ongoing fiscal year. RPA isn’t actually robots — it’s software. And it’s programmed to complete specific business processes, which are routine, high-volume activities like routine help desk requests, call centre operations, data migration and other applications. RPAs can be chatbots, virtual assistants, data retrieval as well as claims processing algorithms.
The justification for their use — despite the threat to actual human jobs — is that they will allow employees to focus on more specific tasks that require soft skills. At the same time, they will save companies a bucket-load of money.
Bank of America estimates that $100 billion in annual salaries and associated expenses will come in as savings as a result of automation. “Given that robots can function for 24 hrs a day, this represents a significant saving of up to 10:1 versus human labour,” said the report.
However, according to NASSCOM, existing business process outsourcing (BPO) employees won’t be impacted by automation because most of the work that is being done now involves “higher end expertise”. That is to say, that ‘low skilled’ jobs have already been ‘filtered out’ — employees were either fired or upskilled — over the last few years.
But one of its members, Tech Mahindra, disagrees. During an analyst call in February, the company’s chief financial officer (CFO), Manoj Bhat, disclosed that automation will result in savings for the company.
India’s fifth-largest IT exporter also disclosed that it planned to lay off 5,000 employees within its BPO vertical by April this year with chatbots and virtual assistants increasing the productivity per employee.