The venerable New Orleans funk band Galactic purchased the historic music club Tipitina’s in late November 2018 and, according to bassist Robert Mercurio, was making a go of it.
“It’s a tight-margin business but we were making our notes and fulfilling our bills and whatnot. So, it was moving along in a good direction,” he said.
That was before the coronavirus pandemic forced shutdowns of public gatherings.
Audiences last packed into Tipitina’s for a March 12 performance by the Stooges Brass Band. Now, Mercurio is worried that COVID-19 could prove fatal to Tipitina’s, a New Orleans cultural touchstone founded in the 1970s as the performance home for the late Henry Roeland Byrd, better known as rhythm and blues keyboard genius Professor Longhair.
For Mercurio, the problem is twofold. Galactic is a band with nowhere to tour and a business whose operating model — packing hordes of people in front of a stage for hours — doesn’t work in a pandemic.
“It’s terrifying,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult to be a now-nonworking musician owning an unopened nightclub.”
Such fears aren’t limited to New Orleans. Independent music clubs all over the nation — pop culture icons like the Troubadour in West Hollywood; the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee; The Bitter End in New York’s Greenwich Village — are shuttered. And owners fear for the future of their businesses and of a musical way of life.
“There’s no amount of history or legendary status that will protect you,” Audrey Fix Schaefer said. She is a spokesperson for the National Independent Venue Association, which was formed in the wake of the pandemic to raise awareness and money for the newly struggling clubs. She points to the iconic jazz club Birdland in New York City. “Can you imagine having the type of rents that you have in midtown Manhattan and no revenue?”
NIVA, which has 2,800 members representing venues, promoters and festivals, lobbied for congressional passage of what the organization calls the Save Our Stages Act. The aid package, Schaefer said, has bipartisan backing and was included in a $2.2 trillion relief plan passed earlier this year in the Democrat-controlled House, and in a smaller relief package in the Republican-controlled Senate. But with no imminent resolution of differences on the overall package between the chambers, there is no clear end in sight to the pandemic closures.
“The rent is the rent, and that’s the problem,” says Chris Cobb, owner of Nashville’s Exit/In. He said fixed costs haven’t come down much at the nearly 50-year-old venue, while revenue is down 94 percent. Fundraising efforts, such as those by Nashville’s Music Venue Alliance, and the possibility of more federal help are keeping him hopeful that they can buy themselves a few more months.
Some venues are turning to livestreaming to help themselves and create work for musicians left jobless by the pandemic. The Maple Leaf Bar, a fixture in New Orleans’ Carrollton neighbourhood since the 1970s, recently kicked off a series of streaming concerts dubbed “The Viral Sessions,” with Jon Cleary and his band.
“It keeps musicians employed,” owner Hank Staples said. “It keeps our brand out there and we’ve made some much needed income off of it as well.”
But even with that income — minus the expenses of mounting the productions —Staples isn’t sure how long he can keep The Maple Leaf going.
“We can certainly go for another month and a half or two months,” Staples said recently as he sat on the Leaf’s narrow stage, decorated with strings of tiny blue lights, vinyl records repurposed as wall hangings and a cardboard cutout of a nearly naked James Booker, the flamboyant piano prodigy who performed there regularly until his death in 1983. “But we need some way to generate income because the money I’ve squirreled away — it’s depleted severely.”
It’s already too late for some clubs. U Street Music Hall in Washington closed for good on Oct 5, Schaefer noted.
Club owners said in an online post that they’d hoped they could save the decade-old venue. “But due to the pandemic, mounting operational costs that never paused even while we were closed, and no clear timeline for when clubs like ours can safely reopen, we had no choice recently but to make this heartbreaking decision.”
Cobb fears too many such closures would mean loss of something irretrievable in his beloved Nashville and elsewhere.
“This is an organic ecosystem that supports American music,” he said by telephone. “Without this independent network, American music as we know it would not exist. These are the venues where the superstars got their start. It’s where they honed their craft. It’s where they built fan bases. It’s where they get better. Nobody plays the arena that didn’t spend time touring the clubs.”
In New York, The Bitter End owner Paul Rizzo agrees. “Stephanie Germanotta, when she played at The Bitter End, wasn’t Lady Gaga yet,” says Rizzo. “She had to play for a while. You have to get experiences to become something that you are able to become.”
Eminent theatre activist and Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation founding member Shyamal Bhattacharya passed away on Thursday in his hometown Bogura. He was 81.
A lifelong theatre worker, playwright, coordinator and teacher, Shyamal passed away due to brain hemorrhage at the ICU of Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College.
"Our beloved and respected long-time theatre activist and one of the founding father figures in the theatre arena of Bogura, Shyamal Bhattacharya has passed away. We've lost one of our founding comrades and we're expressing our heartiest condolence to his family," Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation secretary general Kamal Bayazid told UNB.
In his illustrious career, Shyamal was a pioneer in Bogura's theatre sphere and participated in national level festivals with Bogura Natya Goshthi to which he was a founding member, playwright and actor. He was also a teacher at the Bogura Zilla School.
Among his many accolades, Shyamal received Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation Award for his excellence and contribution as a theatre activists over the years.
Also read: Journalist Anwarul Haq passes away
Bangladesh's Shaheen Akhtar has won the 3rd Asian Literary Award for her novel "Talaash."
The novel paints the sufferings of Birangona women – survivors of sexual violence during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
The award was announced on November 1 at the Asian Literature Festival 2020.
"Imperialism and colonialism, war and violence, the deceptions of war criminals, mistreatment of independence fighters, and ongoing ill-treatment of rape victims are all interwoven in the narrative of the novel," Kim Nam-il, novelist and the award committee chair, said.
Also, Nam-il compared "Talaash" with Svetlana Alexievich's "The Unwomanly Face of the War," calling it "one of the greatest feminist anti-war docu-novels of our time."
"The novel's protagonist, Maryam, who finds herself caught in the snare of dualities, enters another world in which she and a companion enjoy the camaraderie of fellow Birangonas, holds its own as one of the most sublime scenes in contemporary literature."
Mowla Brothers published "Talaash" in 2009.
Also read: 10 picked for Bangla Academy Literary Award
Bollywood actor Faraaz Khan passed away at a private hospital in the southern city of Bengaluru on Wednesday, after a prolonged battle with chest and brain infections. He was 50.
Actress Pooja Bhatt broke the news on Twitter. "With a heavy heart, I break the news that Faraaz Khan has left us for what I believe, is a better place. Gratitude to all for your help and good wishes when he needed it most. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. The void he has left behind will be impossible to fill," she tweeted.
Bhatt was the one who had initially come forward to bail out the actor's family with the medical bills that it was struggling to cough up. Subsequently, Bollywood star Salman Khan had paid Faraaz's medical bills to the tune of Rs 25 lakh (35,000 USD) last month. "May God bless him (Salman) and give him a long life," the family had said.
Earlier last month, Faraaz's brother Fahmaan had said that the actor was suffering from chest and brain infections, and also appealed for financial help. "Doctors are trying their best to get him out of danger but that will require another 7-10 days of critical care. This will cost us around Rs 25 lakh. It is a huge amount," Fahmaan had said.
Faraaz, once a sought-after name in both Hindi movies and serials, and Fahmaan are both sons of late actor Yusuf Khan, who's best remembered as Zebisko from the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer action-musical thriller Amar Akbar Anthony. Faraaz had played key roles in many Bollywood films, including blockbusters like Fareb and Prithvi, and also featured in TV shows such as Raat Hone Ko Hai and Sinndoor Tere Naam Ka.
Also read: Bollywood actor Faraaz Khan fights for life
Ekushey Padak and National Film Award winner, freedom fighter and renowned cultural activist Nasiruddin Yousuff Bachchu has tested positive for COVID-19.
The eminent cultural personality was admitted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital (BSMMU) in the capital on Friday, with symptoms of the coronavirus. The test result came out positive on Saturday.
"Our Dhaka DocLab chairman Nasiruddin Yousuff is currently receiving treatment at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital (BSMMU). He is advised to take rest and he requests his admirers and associates not to panic at all. We are seeking prayers from everyone for his speedy recovery," Dhaka DocLab coordinator Shoriful Islam Shaon told UNB.
One of the pioneers and most respected personalities in the theatre arena of Bangladesh, Nasiruddin Yousuff founded Dhaka Theatre in 1973 and later Bangladesh Gram Theatre along with the late playwright Selim Al Deen.
Yousuff is currently serving Dhaka DocLab as its chairman, Bangladesh Gram Theatre and Dhaka Theatre as president and Bangladesh Centre of International Theatre (BCITI) as organising secretary, to name a few.
A former president of the Sammilita Sangskritik Jote, he has also served as the president and director of the Committee for Cultural Identity and Development (CIDC).
In his illustrious career, Nasiruddin Yousuff received the National Film Award as the Best Director for his critically acclaimed film Guerrilla (2011). He was awarded Ekushey Padak by the Government of Bangladesh in 2010 for his outstanding contribution towards the development of the theatre industry in Bangladesh.
Also read:9,600 unemployed cultural activists get financial assistance during pandemic: State Minister