South Sudanese musicians have abandoned the music industry and joined other professions to survive, as entertainment jobs have been hit hard by the coronavirus, conflict, and flooding.
Dozens of musicians have abandoned their profession to get money to cover expenses instead of remaining in the music industry and facing the prospect of bare cupboards.
Lado James, who has been a musician for a decade, is among those who switched jobs. He told Anadolu Agency he abandoned music, for now, because the business is not doing well due to the virus and conflict in the country.
He said before the virus, he had shows where he would get money but now it is difficult to organize a show because places are too expensive compared to the pre-pandemic days.
“It’s not easy now to organize a show. The government will tell you to adhere to all the protocols of COVID-19, like to provide water tankers for hand washing, buying soap and facemasks,” he said. “All those are too expensive for me to buy such that I have a show and I don’t know what I am going to get from there.”
James, who became a businessman, said he will go back to music if the pandemic and conflict are wiped away and shows are allowed without restrictions.
He said the money he has now will not be wasted on music but used to feed his family.
James said before the pandemic he could record a song for cheap, like $10 each. But studios have become very expensive --recording one song for $100.
“If I get that $100, I won't waste it on recording songs. I'll give it to my family to buy food,” he said.
- COVID restrictions
Before restrictions on nightclubs were enacted in South Sudan as part of preventive measures against the virus and security-related issues, James was earning $300-600 per week performing at parties and weddings.
But he said not only the virus has affected his music earnings, conflict and flooding have made it worse.
James said those who are in the capital, Juba, cannot travel to perform because of the security situation that does not allow people to get together at nightclubs in some areas and other places there is flooding so there is nowhere to organize a show.
Mawien Ariik, 30, a musician, said he opened a business and is using it to fund his music because there is nothing now from music.
He said the virus has affected the industry – no functions to perform to get money and musicians now are using other resources they have somewhere to record songs.
He said he still works as a musician but is not very active but is busy doing other work to feed his family and producing songs although the market is down.
One female musician who called herself A. Wilson said nobody is calling performers to perform at shows to get money.
“What I have realized is that people do not have money in the country – no weddings, birthdays, or other functions taking place and this is where we get money when there are many functions,” said Wilson, who decided to leave the business to become a nurse.
“I'm a nurse by profession. I have a higher certificate in midwifery. Now, I am back to a hospital to save my people than waste my time on music which is not benefiting me. Still, I am a musician. If somebody calls me for his or her wedding or birthday I will not refuse. I will go and perform but it’s not the number one job for me now,” she said.
Acinbai Maluk, finance secretary of the South Sudan Artist Union, said the music industry was hit hard by the pandemic.
“It's very bad now. COVID-19 is treating us so badly. We can't even perform. The industry is dying and we are trying to manage to cope by singing songs that can give awareness,” he said.
Financially, the industry, with more than 5,000 artists, is broke because funds are needed to run it, including concert proceeds.