Covid means reinventing

Updated: Mar 16, 2020, 10:31 IST | Karishma Kuenzang | Mumbai

With restriction on movement and gathering, city musicians are hosting short masterclasses, and switching to lessons on Skype

Pic for representation
Pic for representation

With gigs and tours getting cancelled left, right and centre as precautionary measures due to coronavirus, artistes have been left high and dry, when it comes to their source of income. But the show must go on, and Anurag Naidu, a jazz pianist in the city, has converted all his classes into Skype lessons for the next two weeks. "The first thing, in a situation like this is, you need to know your clientele. It has to be someone who can afford to continue paying you, only then would conducting online classes be a sensible option. On the flipside, the work-from-home situation means that now parents can also sit for classes," says Naidu, who has had some experience teaching kids online when he was living in Paris and taking classes for students in India via Skype. But that was during a much more stable environment, he points out, adding, "It's completely uncharted territory for all of us, especially since we don't know how long this will continue. This situation is also about privilege. Because there are many who don't even have enough money to keep them going for six days."

Shreya Bhattacharya
Shreya Bhattacharya

Even private lessons aren't an option now, because many students live with grandparents, who are possibly more susceptible to the pandemic based on current global data. So, Naidu has offered classes with a reduction of '300 to '400, to ensure that students don't feel compromised. Ninety per cent of his students have taken up the offer [exceptions being those who had enrolled recently]. "This isn't an ideal scenario for everyone, and since this is my primary source of income, it's the least that can be done," he explains. But there's a little extra that also goes into these classes. For Naidu also shares short videos of how he wants them to practice for next class after the session.

Avishek Dey
Avishek Dey

Offline too, musicians have found alternate ways to keep working — setting up a studio at home or organising intimate sessions. Like city-based bassist Avishek Dey. "We survive on live shows and tutorials. And living in a city like Mumbai, where you spend '1,000 per day, it gets difficult if you incur losses in lakhs [his cancelled international tours alone cost him '2.5 lakhs]." And so, he recently did a masterclass and has also organised a workshop on the terrace of his residence in April. "This is the only way to earn some money," Dey says. Meanwhile, he's trying to stay creative by practicing at home, where he is also taking private lessons with students, providing them with gloves, masks and sanitiser. "Sweat from the arms latches on to the body of the bass, so I make sure I clean it frequently," he assures, adding that he will also be talking about how musicians can cope with the situation in times of crises.

Anurag Naidu
Anurag Naidu

But taking the online route requires a different skill set. "You have to think of your situation in the classroom instead of enacting it. For example, it's crucial that my students add an attached speaker instead of using their laptop's in-built ones, and also charge devices completely so that they don't go out in the middle of class. Next, both of our WiFi connections need to be strong," adds Naidu, who has also tried a few different camera angles to ensure there is sufficient vision of his hands on the keys. "Hanging it is the best way to see both hands clearly. I also send them a copy of the piece an hour ahead so that they can print it out because switching windows is a pain," informs Naidu, who used to practice the piece by himself so that it was easier to know if his student was going wrong, when he first started out.

Besides this, it's also vital to make the class more interactive, be mindful of the lag in the audio from both ends, and make sure that whoever is playing at any given time is using a metronome (a time-keeping device). Skype works best — it has a better format; the audio is better and you can record the classes for reference.

Dey's bandmate and partner, vocalist Shreya Bhattacharya, is also doing the same from her Bandra home. "We're trying to be as creative as possible and trying to tap into the healing music can provide mentally," the two say. The two are also planning to host classes online, and Dey, who's had some experience in giving classes online to non-Mumbai students, says that he makes it a point to send students recordings of classes afterwards, besides explaining the lesson in theory prior.

Reach them at

. Anurag Naidu (piano): LOG ON TO anuragnaidu (skype); le_prof_ici_ (Instagram)
. Avishek Dey (bass): call 8697688551 insta bassmaniac_dey
. Shreya Bhattacharya (vocals): call 9830407730 insta i.am.shreyaaa
. Vasundhara Vee (vocals): insta vasundhara_vee

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