Independence Day special: An online cultural gig to help covid relief work

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This Independence Day, Umeed Project is conducting a week of Hindustani music, poetry, dastangoi, talks and more for covid-19 relief. Shayarana Umeed, an e-mehfil is a fundraiser which will see participation by a host of theatre artistes, singers, poets among others. The project, a collaborative effort, has already helped over 4.5 lakh people with emergency food resources, thousands of PPE kits, and have been distributing 3,000 meals and over 100 ration kits daily. An amount as basic as ₹500 is enough to feed a family of four people for one week. The ticketed events will be streamed live on Skillbox between August 11 and 16.

Rakesh Tiwari, spoken word Hindi poet believes that art is humanity’s last refuge. “Whenever there has been a crisis, war or a pandemic, people have sought refuge in art. This is the reason online gigs are thriving. Everyone needs closure when they are troubled; art helps plant the seed for change,” he says.

Read: The future of celebrations: How will weddings, events and gigs look in the new normal

For ghazal singer Oshin Bhatia, no deed is small when it comes to helping others. “It feels good to be associated with this cause because people have suffered and lost a lot. If I can help even one person, then I would achieve my purpose. I hope for a better future where people value what they have,” she says.

Like other artistes participating in this project, poet and storyteller Yahya Bootwala believes that no contribution is small. “Log yeh sochte hain ki ek fundraiser se kitni hi help hojayegi, but I truly believe that contributing for one person is still a bigger help than no contribution at all,” he says, hoping that the pandemic teaches us something positive. “We should not take the world for granted again. We must learn from our mistakes and become sympathetic towards nature and fellow humans,” he adds.

Read: First-ever online music concert by Kashmiri artists amid coronavirus pandemic

 Musician and songwriter Barbie Rajput feels that art should be used to help uplift people in difficult times. “It is about the joy of giving. As artistes, this is the least we can do. When you are given something which has the power to make a change, it should be shared with people, and this event is a great opportunity to contribute to society,” she says.

The series also aims at bringing back some indelible aspects of Indian culture, including dastangoi, or storytelling. Actor and dastango Danish Husain, who recited excerpts from the Persian epic Dastan-e-Amir Hamza and took some questions from the audience believes that there is a need for cultural reconditioning. “It is for the civil societies to understand as to why people like us have to step in for relief work,” he says. Husain adds that though online gigs reach far and wide, they are a Catch-22 situation. “While more people are waking up to online gigs, the onus is on the performer to make it more compelling in order to hold the audience. Offline gigs still had a sense of formality, but online gigs are like a carnival where people come and go as they please,” he says.

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