Let the music play: Milind

11 December,2010 06:34 AM IST |   |  Urvashi Seth

Poung MP lends his voice to musicians disheartened over entertainment tax; says killing live music would damage tourism

Poungu00a0MP lends his voice to musicians disheartened over entertainment tax; says killing live music would damage tourism

Musicians, compelled into leaving their employment because of the new entertainment tax on live music, must really have struck a chord with politicians.

Their protests now carry the weight of endorsing utterances by young politicians like Murli Deora and Priya Dutt.

Speaking out in support of the oppressed musicians, some politicians say they feel the government's move is inappropriate and self-defeating as entertainment boosts tourism which in turn rakes in revenue for the government.u00a0

Milind Deora, the 34-year-old Member of Parliament, who was found jamming effortlessly with Salil Bhatt, the son of slide guitarist Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, this September at Blue Frog club, says he shares the musicians' passion for music.

Speaking to MiD DAY, Deora said, "Entertainment is a tourism booster. I don't know the reasons that made the government come up with such an entertainment tax structure.
But it is a fact that tourism is a major source of revenue for the government, earned only if tourists are provided with proper entertainment.
It should also see that tourism is getting revenue to the state." He added, "I sympathise with musicians who are losing their jobs. Even as the government is talking about creating employment, people are losing the same.
There is an urgent need for regularisation." Recently, a group of musicians met MP Priya Dutt and MLA Baba Siddiqui to seek help.

According to Meldan D'cunha, owner of Soul Fry restaurant in Bandra, who was part of the group that met Dutt, said, "She has assured us of immediate action once the State Parliaments' Winter Session is over.

We have submitted our draft to Dutt and hope that some justice is done."

MiD DAY tried contacting Dutt but she was unavailable.

After holding a concert already as part of the ongoing 'Please Don't Kill Live Music' Facebook protest campaign, musicians have assembled two more gigs in this month to voice their disapproval of the new provisions of entertainment tax that require hefty taxes to be paid by hotels and pubs for playing live music.

The sky-high entertainment tax, which threatens to take away the livelihood of many musicians in the city, has brought musicians together for a three-hour gig at the Amphitheatre at Carter Road on December 19.

Playback singer Shibani Kashyap has also spoken out against the entertainment tax

Renowned musicians like Louis Banks are expected to perform at the gig. "Each musician is a spokesperson for this cause and has pledged his support to its logical conclusion, that is, the removal of the Government Resolution to levy high taxes on places that we play at.

This is a musical bazaar where musicians and their families will come togeher to sing jazz, folk, pop and more in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Konkani, Hindi and Marathi, or for raw instrumental jams," said D'cunha, who has initiated the gig.

"Gas balloons and T-shirts with the mesasge 'Please don't kill live music' will be worn by the musicians," added D'cunha. He said that musician Ernest Flanagan, who plays at a caf ufffd in BKC, has written a song dedicated to the government (see box) that will be showcased at the event.

Before the Amphitheatre gig, though, another concert will sing out against the tax regime this Sunday at Velkar Farms, a sprawling restaurant in Dahisar.

"The event will enable people who live in and around central and northern suburbs to be part of the campaign. The concert is free for all," said Lindsay Pitter, one of the musicians who has spearheaded the move.

"Though people may think the tax on live music doesn't affect them, they stand to lose a lot if it is continued to be levied. It may even bring an end to this simple mode of entertainment," said Pitter, who works with a Mumbai five-star hotel.

Pitter's colleagues lost their jobs recently after the hotel gave them the pink slip due to the recent tax structure. He also added that the concert is to collect as many signatures which will be sent to the government.

Backing the cause

Playback singer Suraj Jagan, known for his award-winning song Give me some sunshine from the picture Three Idiots, is among the few to sing at the concert at Dahisar.

"I am in this industry for 21 years. Never in my life have I come across an instance where a weird tax structure has snatched jobs away from musicians. This is just wrong," he said.

Shibani Kashyap, a renowned playback singer, who will perform at the music concert, said, "It is absolutely unfair on the part of the government. I can't understand why they have to put passionate musicians out of work just to earn extra money."

Minister speaks

PWD and Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said "I am unaware of the new entertainment tax as I have recently taken over as the Tourism Minister. I will look into the matter once the Winter Session of the State Legislature is over."

'Hey Mr Taxman'

Excerpts from the song composed for the government that will be played at Music Bazaar:
Hey Mr Taxman,
Here's a song for you
From the Live Musicians of Mumbai
Who could be dead soon too!
Depends on what you do.

This new tax that you've introduced
Will kill us can't you see?
We'll lose our jobs, we will starve
So will our families
(So will our families)

Target the tainted and corrupt
Looting our country
With a scam a day, they stash away
Billions overseas!
(In banks overseas)

Dates of concerts

Dec 12
Gig: Music concert
Venue: Velkar Farms, behind Velkar petrol pump, before Fountain Hotel, Dahisaru00a0

Dec 19
Gig: Music Bazaar
Venue: Amphitheatre, Opposite Landmark, Carter Road.

The number of supporters of 'Pls don't kill live music' campaign on Facebook

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Milind Shibani Kashyap protests entertainment tax live music