PORT MORESBY - A group of seven Port Moresby-based musicians have lost a combined income estimated at K232,000 over the six months since April, working out to K1,275 for each musician each week.
The musicians gathered last weekend at the National Museum & Art Gallery at Waigani to share personal stories of the effect of Covid-19 measures on their families.
“Because there are no gigs, I have no income. In my family, not everyone works. The pressure is on me as a musician to earn money,” one said.
“I am part of a two-piece band at a local hotel and we have been performing weekly for the past 10 years. That gig stopped in March this year.”
Musician 2: “I am a guitarist and I play as part of a band at a club. Because of the lockdown, my gig dried up. I come from a single-parent family and my income helps my parent pay the bills. Now I do not help with the bills and I am not comfortable with that.
“I completed a short-course and graduated but companies are cutting down on staff and there is no demand in the job market for people like me. So, I have no gigs and no secular job.”
Musician 3: “I sometimes help out with other bands as a vocalist or guitarist. I have my own band too. The lockdown stopped me from playing gigs. At the same time, I live in a rental accommodation and I share the rent.
“I now do not contribute to the rent and it has affected my relationship with my spouse, who has to carry the rental payment monthly. My rent is eight months in arrears.”
Musician 4: “We depend on gatherings to make money. Venues we play at include night clubs and open-air concerts. I help my partner pay the bills by paying the kids school fees.
“I had a weekly income and the gigs kept me going. Now I am unable to do that.”
Musician 5: “I have six kids plus other orphaned children under my care. My partner and I house and feed them and my music income from live performances and hiring out equipment helps me pay for school fees, school lunches and uniforms. My main income is from club gigs. The lockdown has affected my income.”
Musician 6 was reformed after taking up music: “I became a street kid after losing one parent. I had nowhere to go. My family told me that there was no future in music. But I took up a music career, and I make my money from doing session work, touring, and playing live.
When my parent died, music helped me survive and put food on the table and helped my family during the ‘loose week’. The lockdown has affected me.”
Musician 7 holds down a day job: “In my street, if you drop out of school you are either a rascal through peer pressure or a buai seller. I completed high school and did not do anything for four years except music.
“I did not want to become a rascal. I’m married with a child. Because of Covid-19 my partner became unemployed. I now have to provide for my partner and child in addition to my extended family. I am spending 80% of my income every fortnight taking care of my immediate and extended families.
“I have a regular job. But if I became unemployed tomorrow, I would become a freelance musician. I also operate a buai market to keep us going.”
The group of freelance musicians have called upon the pandemic controller, David Manning, to relax the Covid-19 measures or provide compensation if the situation does not improve.
In a petition the group intends to present to prime minister Marape and Manning they say: “Many of us are already living in a precarious financial situation. Absorbing a loss of income in Papua New Guinea since 23 March 2020 is unsustainable.
“At the start of the year, prime minister Marape announced incentives to help small enterprises and state owned enterprises affected by Covid-19. We request similar incentives and pandemic measures that will support us during these difficult times.”
The online petition on www.change.org has collected over 100 supporters.