Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The 2018 US Concert Tour and lessons learned

As much I have hated doing this - I am left with no choice. 

I did a 9 (or 10 not too sure) city tour in the US with Hariharan sir and one solo show for San Diego Tamil Sangam; We performed for multiple people including the Chinmaya Mission -  in the midst of the MeToo Movement in 2018. I got banned while I was on tour, was getting shamed by several members of the fraternity, politicians, poets and the regional media left, right and centre. 

I was given to understand the concert tour was a ‘loss’ because 

Subhashree said organizers didn't want me because I was part of the MeToo movement and Indian people in the US don’t support women like me.  

But the audience in the US made be feel great - They made it a point to walk up to me and say they bought tickets to show support and in solidarity.  That was precious for me. In some cities I had guests and *I PAID* for those tickets from my own pocket; I don’t take anything for free, I don’t take gifts as a policy from anyone because I have come to understand organizers go through a lot. I hired my own car, took care or myself with our food simply because it was convenient. I had brought my friends, (one a director and the other a videographer) along to shoot a showreel, at my expense. I paid for my own suitcases too because that wasn’t paid for in some cities. The musicians in the tour had a different story to share and I haven’t been asked to share it for them. 
And guess what?

I got paid NOTHING. I didn’t ask for an advance because the promoter is Subhashree Thanikachalam. She was the producer of Saptaswarangal in which I first sang when I was 13. Mr. Srinivas was the judge and then the break in Kannathil Muthamittaal happened. 

Of the 2 people who owe me several lakhs one is Gajendra Singh, (Saibaba Telefilms) who produced Chote Ustad on Star Plus, which I hosted and Sangeeta Maha Yuddham on Sun TV and paid me nothing.

The other is Subhashree Thanikachalam of Maximum Media. She was the person behind Ragamalika and Saptaswarangal and Hari Udan Naan. 

The earnings from the concert tour in the US was supposed to be my savings for a rainy day. Only that the ‘Rainy days’ were already thundering above my head. Almost 1.5 years down the line Subhashree has said none of the promoters paid her. And she doesn’t have the money to pay me. She later said in her own comment on my Instagram post that she lost money due to her own mistake. 

I am an existing O1 visa holder. A visa that is given to artistes of extraordinary ability. Therefore she didn’t even have visa fees to pay for. I have met enough organizers in the US who take unsuspecting musicians on a B1/B2 Visa. I got an O1 visa on my own. So basically she isn’t my petitioner. She didn’t keep her word with my petitioner either. He asked her for the payment, didn't sing a NOC. But she blocked him on WhatsApp / calls when he asked her for the payment due to me.  

One of the problems is - some organizers repeatedly treat musicians like crap, underpay them, don’t feed them, don’t give them a decent place to stay. And musicians do it too because they need to survive. 

Some also have a tendency to say ‘I’m bringing you on a holiday to the US, so work for free (by singing for free or a pathetic payment) so come on a B1/B2 (non work visa). Usually unsuspecting, young singers, or singers with a rural background who have never flown out of the country and get highly intimidated with all this paperwork and English speaking just do as they are told. They just don’t know any more. Plus they are cordoned off from any interaction and they don’t get to know until after several years. 

To young singers - you can always go on a holiday. It’s easier now to go on foreign holidays than it was. I’d tell artistes to treat holidays differently and work differently. But Singers and musicians repeatedly turn up to get exploited. That’s a choice they make. In turn, promoters also say people aren’t buying tickets and we are unable to sell. In which case, I’d say if you’re an artiste, don’t go. 

Subhashree Thanikachalam had a wedding to pay for. I knew weddings are expensive and didn’t want to ask her for my payment immediately after the show. 

The US Concert Tour with Hariharan ji was great because I got to learn a lot from him. 

It just was an expensive one for me at a time when I could ill afford the expenditure. Especially with all the expenditure I had to undertake for myself and the money that was owed to me.

Overall - I guess hereon forth, I shall be one of the artistes that won’t get on the stage unless I am paid in full. Most of us don’t want to behave like that. We become that because of experiences like these.

9/10 shows. All for no payment. And that was the story of another financial exploitation that I had to go through in the midst of the abuse that I was already going through in-between my ban by the Tamilnadu Dubbing Union and everything else. 

You could say it is my mistake I went without an advance. And didn’t get paid. Yes. But I generally am someone who trusts and believed I didn’t need to tell someone who knew me from the time I was 13 “if you don’t pay me, I won’t go on stage.”  

And such is life. You will get screwed over (or molested as was in my case) by people you trust. :) 

So as is usual with my life - I guess things happen to me so that others can learn. And this is another lesson god Thokofied on me so that others can learn. 

Even better is after her blocking my petitioner saying "It is YOUR fault if she performed without consent" "I repeat NO ONE asks me for a contract!!!"

And then she puts up a facebook post saying she got stabbed. 

Somehow - be it molesters or defaulters they somehow end up painting themselves as the victims and get ample support, as was evident during the entire MeToo movement whereas the ones that are sexually / financially exploited are shamed for speaking up. And nice plug about Women's Day too. 

Somehow Saibaba seems to have harboured the 2 biggest defaulters in my life. Saibaba never answered my questions when I asked why. Maybe that's how it works. The past 1.5 years I have no belief in Karma. That people who do wrong will suffer. They don't. They also get platformed by people time and again. And ummachi doesn't really stand for those who speak the truth either. But I'd still say if you can, do the right thing. That's all. Not for karma. Or for reaping and sowing. But for yourself. If you don't want to do it for yourself, that's OK too.

Must be something in some janma I promised to pay Shirdi Saibaba something and didn't and hence he is taking revenge on me or something? :p
2 of his ardent devotees have aappu adichufied and how.... LOLZ

I hope the account with Shirdi Saibaba is settled once and for all. 
Yappa podhum da saami.

P.S.: Thanks to Pragati Guru for having spoken up. Apparently we aren't the only ones, as is true in most of the cases.

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