Let the music play on…

The National Music Corp will be established to allow music practitioners the right assistance from one central source

By AZALEA AZUAR / Pics from Cendana’s FB page

MUSICIANS and people in the performing arts are among those that have been significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic that does not seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.

The situation is the same in other parts of the world. For instance, creative souls who used to eke out a healthy living with their talent on Broadway theatre have been jobless since the beginning of the pandemic a year ago.

The same is experienced by performers and theatre talents who relied much on all the popular shows that are staged at West End of London.

The more resilient among them might have chosen to showcase their works online but the reaction they get would certainly not be the same as performing in front of a live audience.

In Malaysia, the entire year since Covid-19 was announced as a pandemic last March, most musicians and performers found it difficult to survive.

However, help is on the way, via the National Music Corp that is in the middle of being established.

Cendana’s Recovery Initiatives will provide some needed support to spaces, arts organisations, production houses, bands and theatre groups who provide jobs which many Malaysians depend on, says Saifuddin

Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said the new body is needed to allow music practitioners the right assistance from one central source, instead of dealing with many different parties.

“It will be brought to the Cabinet to enable the establishment of a Malaysian music corporation which will administer and manage the affairs of the country’s music development,” he said at an award ceremony for the Beneficiaries of the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) Recovery Initiatives.

Saifuddin added that the goal of the corporation is to defend, strengthen and preserve the local music industry while creating events that could keep the performers and musicians going.

For this year, the ministry is expected to hold the first “Malaysian International Nasyid Awards” which would be a hybrid event.

“Likewise, this year we are looking at the possibility of a hybrid kind of celebration, so there may be people who are able to travel.

“Many people will not be able to travel or may not want to travel because they are concerned about their own safety,” Saifuddin said, adding that the award ceremony would make Malaysia an international nasyid centre.

Other plans in the ministry’s agenda include the “Road to Grammys” and “Road to Oscars” programmes which, he said, would require extra funding.

Saifuddin said more than 3,000 artists and cultural workers have been awarded a shared allocation of RM10 million as part of a RM150 million vital financial boost from the Penjana Plan for the creative industries.

“Malaysia’s arts and culture communities provide an incredible amount of good for Malaysia and support thousands of jobs. This is a difficult time for all, and we know many are struggling to recover from the Covid-19 impact.

“The Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) Recovery Initiatives provide some needed support to spaces, arts organisations, production houses, bands and theatre groups who provide jobs which many Malaysians depend on,” he said.

More than 500 beneficiaries were honoured at the ceremony with 35 physically present during the event which included 45% from Create Now Funding Programme, 17% from the Craft Industry Choice, 11% from the Independent Music Funding Programme, 10% from Performing Arts Presentation Funding Programme, 8% from Arts Venue Recovery Programme, 5% from Arts Organisation Resilience Funding Programme and 4% from Art In The City Public Art Commissioning Programme.

Most of the awarded artisans hailed from Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan, Perak, Johor and Kedah. From the total, 38% were involved in crafting Malaysian-made products, 35% specialised in heritage preservation, 11% in contemporised craft, 9% in endangered craft, 5% in craft training and 2% in innovation craft.

The artists and cultural workers mostly were from Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pulau Pinang, Johor, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak comprising 49% individuals, 28% collectives and 23% organisations.

The initiative was formed by Cendana to support performing arts, visual arts, independent music and craft sectors via seven funding programmes.

It would assist individuals, collectives, bands and organisations in need of grants for recovery, as well as those whose operations have been heavily impacted by it and had limited ability to reopen due to restrictions.

Recipients who have been awarded would receive different grant sizes depending on their applications and targeted programmes. The grants can be worth up to RM3,500 to support short, new or adapted work online; or up to RM100,000 to make art part of urban spaces; or up to RM150,000 to support practice and operations (for registered arts organisations).

According to Cendana CEO Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehuddin, 93% of the arts and culture were negatively impacted from the Covid-19 pandemic, and 70% of them had lost all or most of their income.

She said 57% of artists depended on the income to feed their families and pay for their workers, while 63% of them did not have an Employees’ Provident Fund account.

Izan Satrina said 91% of the respondents also did not feel safe returning to the art venues and activities.

“We have to think in terms of cashflow looking at the activities for our arts organisations and artists.

“This data has helped us create the Penjana Recovery Initiative where 1,500 applications have been processed by the Cendana team,” she said.

MyCreative Ventures Sdn Bhd (MyCV) chairman Noor Azmi Mat Said it is also important to look at the bigger picture in the development of the local creative industries including the arts and culture sectors.

“We are only just scratching the surface with the Penjana Plan for the creative industries.

MyCV and Cendana aim to further vitalise the creative economy, or the Orange Economy, as we begin to see signs of recovery from the ongoing global pandemic,” he said.

Noor Azmi said Malaysia could develop its own Orange Economy by supporting creative practitioners and enterprises, from regulatory support, market access, provision of technology, financing tools, capacity building and infrastructure support.

He added that the effort would be in conjunction with the United Nations move in naming 2021 as the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.