Turkish musicians having difficult times amid pandemic
COVID-19 has made the world eerily quiet, with public health measures aimed at closing down entertainment venues having limited large-scale performances for bands, choirs and musicians all across the globe.
Turkish daily Milliyet columnist Menderes Özel said in a recent column that the climate for musicians in the United Kingdom is extremely bleak and a similar atmosphere is prevailing in Turkey as in the rest of the world.
Özel noted that he could not reach the initiatives and possible researches of musician associations and unions in Turkey, and emphasized that there was no comprehensive evaluation on the website of the Music and Performing Arts Union (MUSIC-SEN), which claimed that nearly 100 musicians committed suicide in the country during the pandemic.
He stated that the union’s website only includes slogans against armament, drugs and sexual harassment and some calls to protect nature, and therefore preferred to directly ask for information of musicians who felt the effects of the pandemic.
“Of course, like every stage artist, I am having a hard time. Even before the pandemic period, all stage people were already experiencing difficulties in this difficult sector. Now things got harder,” says Gür Akad, one of the most important guitar virtuosos in the country.
“I have such a chance that we can make studio recordings and occasional small concerts. My musician friends who perform with me also go to small concerts with other bands or our singer friends. But, of course, their work is unfortunately very limited,” he added.
Noting that he does not have a prediction of what the course will be if the situation gets worse, Akad said that professional organizations are also in a difficult situation, adding that some institutions have begun to cut withholding taxes from quarterly royalties paid to musicians.
“My concert revenues disappeared suddenly. Other jobs have also been affected. Many projects have been canceled. For now, I manage with my savings,” said Demirhan Baylan, a bass guitar virtuoso and sound engineer.
“The musicians who work with me stay at home like everyone else. I also saw people selling musical instruments on social media,” Baylan added.
Emphasizing that there is a social class distinction among musicians, Baylan drew attention to the fact that the musician working in the pavilion in Anatolia with the top musician of Istanbul has different conditions.
“Many musicians who worked with me chose to downsize by changing the lifestyles they’ve established. Some of my married friends have even returned to live with their families together with their spouses,” Baylan noted.
“There were people who had to change cities. My musician friends, who were only permanent teachers, could continue to work. However, when we look at the country in general, I can see those who experience much worse situations,” he added.
Referring to the unforeseen in the music industry, Özel stressed the necessity of supporting musicians who have been in a difficult situation with the bans imposed in such a difficult phase.
Özel has called on to open up opportunities of employment for musicians, even if support is not possible.