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Aruban musicians and sound engineers during Covid-19 Pandemic

Live Music Aruba’s booking agents decided to speak with local musicians about how the ongoing pandemic has affected their livelihood in the music industry. These are the stories they shared with us;

Sergio ” Checho” Silva – Bass player (Bambu, Bandilama, Dub I Tree, Party Posse, Robin and The Rebels, Kawana)

“Everything came to my mind when the Aruban government first announced all the new COVID 19 restrictions in means live music entertainment. Everything that I had worked for, especially the well being of my family, the house and all the expenses we had and still have. How am I going to cover all that if I’m not going to have an income?”

“All my bookings came to a halt. Going from a steady income to having nothing to hold on to. Being a bass player to some is very difficult to come forward as a 1PC musician, unless you can play and sing simultaneously. This is in comparison to other musicians that can play instrumentals and background but, bass is not a solo instrument.”

“It just feels like our trade is not considered a real trade, so to most people that don’t live from the performing arts or know someone who does, they don’t feel the pain and impotence that we feel towards these strict decisions.”

“I started listening to different types of music, and writing a little. Also, I kept practicing my instrument to stay up to date with the turning of the world.”

“The pandemic and restrictions set me in a very difficult positions and at a certain point I started thinking that this wouldn’t change for a now and that seeking another career was the only option, but even that was blocked for us.”

“My daughters and family inspire me every day.”

“Hoping that it will be over soon and that they let us live again from what we love; music and the spread of good energy.”

Hubert Thiel – Pianist/Producer (Oruba)

“At first I was thinking that it would only last for a month or two.”

“My bookings stopped 100% since I am not a singer nor a soloist.”

“The music industry is the one that got it the hardest. It seems like we are the last ones to get back to the “normal” conditions.”

“Fortunately I own a recording studio which keeps me busy doing music, either for myself or for other artists locally and internationally, looking to make music and I am thankful to get the opportunity to give piano lessons to the younger ones.”

“I sure do miss that feeling being on stage every week.”

“I went over to follow online music classes to keep improving my knowledge of music. Music never stops.”

“If you are passionate enough with music you will notice that it’s everywhere. There is music in everything if you listen carefully.”

“I am looking forward to connecting again with my colleagues in music.”

Chris Kross – Guitarist/Producer

“My initial thought was that the arts community is going to go through a tough time. Moreover, entertainment of all sorts would probably be canceled.”

” I usually perform in different settings; solo, duo, trio and with a band. Now I am limited to performing solo, which means many of my bookings were dropped. On top of that I lost a couple of existing gigs”

“I feel that the arts community in general has been neglected many times. We can remark by witnessing funding in the arts community. Also, the social and financial support to all artists is lacking”

“My band and I decided to make a virtual album seeing that we wanted to keep creating music.”

“Every second I miss the thrill of performing with fellow musicians and being at an event.

“The inspiration comes from the love of music and looking forward to better times.”

“What I am looking forward to the most is the feeling of being on stage and performing my heart out.”

Pierre Koolman – Drummer (Blue Boulevard, Groove Machines, Mercedez)

“At first, when the government announced all the new restrictions, I was mad but at the same time concerned. I was participating with a group of musicians for the “Un Canto Pa Nos Himno y Bandera” annual festival and we had just qualified for the finals, but the government imposed the Shelter in place protocols and canceled all events one day before the finals.”

“At the beginning of the whole lockdown, everything and everyone were canceled. This was very scary for me personally, because I was coming from one of the best years in my drumming career. I was constantly gigging throughout the whole week, and if I wasn’t gigging, I’d be at a rehearsal for a gig. After almost a year, protocols started to lighten up and we even started to do gigs with small bands at the end of 2020/ beginning of 2021. After that, the number of Covid cases started to increase again and the Government immediately reimposed stricter protocols. However, recently, I’ve been observing venues and businesses in every industry, and noticed that basically every business is operating with close to almost 100% staff, where as bands of are running at less than 25%.

“It’s evident that the music industry is being kept on a tighter lease, almost as if we’re being punished. “

“I decided to take this opportunity to relax and take a long awaited vacation. After a while, I started to get bored and started to explore my hobbies which included cinematography. For the last 2-3 years before this pandemic, my schedule was completely dedicated to music and gigs and rehearsals, but I finally took this new free and open schedule and started taking pictures, recording videos and editing.”

“Music is not something I love doing, it’s who I am, so not being able to perform like this feels like I’m not being allowed to be myself.”

“Without performing, I definitely feel like a part of me is missing.”

“I feel like I make music everyday to some extent. Even if I hear a bird singing, or I hear water droplets make a certain rhythm, or even putting my phone down and it sounds like a beat, I would sing along or repeat the rhythm with my hands or mouth. I’m like this the whole time. I look forward to being and feeling like myself at 100%.”

Kevin da Silva – Sound engineer

“My first thought was that the live entertainment would be the first to be cut off, so I knew ahead that the entertainment world would need to adapt or take a long vacation due to the nature of a pandemic. We did not know for sure what COVID-19 was at the start, or what its spread rate was. We knew that venues and performances would have to adapt, but we unfortunately never had the chance to do so.”

“All my bookings were immediately cancelled since I mainly worked for 4pc bands or consulting on corporate events. Many outside companies that usually hold corporate events on the island cancelled right away due to travel restrictions as well, so there simply was no gigs for me. At the start of COVID, I worked as an independent sound engineer that focuses only on mixing. I didn’t own any equipment, so for the little gigs that I had left it was shared among production companies.”

“The only regulations are when it comes to paying taxes. That is the only time any industry really matters.”

“Luckily I have my own home studio with guitars, bass, and a keyboard to keep busy. I kept working mostly on other markets like Youtube cover artists or singer/songwriters in the US. So it gave me to time to focus on those markets and also experiment with other things.”

“Of course, doing live sound has and always will be a new challenge, no matter how long one has been doing it. Sound is basically kinetic energy, so it involves a lot of physics which was always a favorite subject of mine. A lot of inertia laws and geometry involved, so no two shows are ever the same. You can’t just “save” a show as a preset and expect it to sound the same next time. So I miss being a problem solver when it comes to that. Most times it’s stressful, but fun regardless.”

“I always loved music and sounds. I was never a good musician, but I can put my love of music in live shows for making others sound good. Nothing beats having the feeling when the band is performing perfectly and full of emotion. I feel it transfers to the audience as well, so its quite hypnotic really. Seeking that feeling, keeps me doing what I love. Not only that, but learning more so I overcome new challenges as well.”

“Honestly, the rock gigs I miss the most. Mixing for bands at bar venues or concerts is simply fun. I know a lot of the musicians too, a lot of them are amazing people. So I miss hanging out with them. Together, we all made it feel like its more than just simply work, but an experience that simply can’t be put in words.”

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