Published 11:44 am
Modified 1:55 pm
Pubs are closing, musicians are forced to sell their instruments, the future is bleak and the prime minister is making jokes about it.
Distraught musicians and nightclub owners joined Federation of Malaysian Entertainment Industry president Liew Poon Siak in expressing dismay over Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s remark that it might be best for nightclubs to remain closed since it would be difficult to observe physical distancing in these premises.
“Malaysians are quick to acknowledge the richness of our cultural diversity, but very quickly forget that this unique diversity also comes with a tolerance of beliefs and practices that are different from one’s own.
“The recent decision to keep the pub and nightclub industry on lockdown in Malaysia is an example of a decision made with a low level of tolerance for our cultural and economic diversity,” said Adil Johan, Research Fellow at UKM’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, who also plays the saxophone for Nadir and Azmyl Yunor Orkes Padu.
Adil said Malaysia needs to acknowledge that the pub and nightclub industry is not just a place where non-Muslims get drunk and behave rowdily.
“In fact, these venues are very important spaces for networking and maintaining good social ties among Malaysians. It is also where many Malaysian musicians and entertainers, both Muslims and non-Muslims, earn an honest living to entertain the clientele of these venues.
“More so, we have to acknowledge that such venues also offer employment to many Malay-Muslims as well as non-Malay bumiputera F&B professionals,” Adil told Malaysiakini.
Liew had said yesterday that ever since the movement control order (MCO) was implemented in March, bars and pubs have not been allowed to operate, and added that these businesses, which contributed to the nation’s economy, are struggling to remain afloat.
He went on to urge Muhyiddin to retract his statement and show concern for the situation.
Dave Avran is editor of The Musician magazine and has been an advocate in the industry for decades.
“The economic hardship caused by the pandemic has badly affected clubs, pubs and live musicians. Some pubs and clubs that with a kitchen have modified their operations to become a restaurant and reopened, but many have closed.
“Live circuit musicians live from paycheck to paycheck without any EPF, Socso, insurance and medical benefits. The majority don’t have any savings or a day job to fall back on and all their money is used up for clothes, hair and equipment upgrades to stay competitive.
“They have been jobless for six months now and are facing another four months of no work. Although two musician associations have approached the government and proposed a restoration with strict SOPs, the situation persists,” Avran said.
In May, Malaysian Buskers Club (MYBC) president Wady Hamdan estimated the busking industry’s loss as being more than RM10 million in the first two months under MCO.
Wady, who has 13,000 buskers and freelance performers under his umbrella body, said each day of non-performance means a substantial loss to the sector.
Avran said some musicians have resorted to selling their beloved instruments just to survive while others are selling home-cooked food and stuff at bazaars.