Coronavirus:Tales of Resilience #4

Aruba Red discusses the trials and unexpected joys of adapting as a music creator under lockdown

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Performer and songwriter Aruba Red

The impact of the virus didn’t feel sudden, it was a creeping sensation. My debut headline show was taking place at St Pancras Old Church on 11th March and during the week of rehearsals before the gig, we became increasingly aware that Corona may have an impact on our lives, but no idea how much.

The first ticket cancelation request came through from a fan who was in Italy and was unable to travel. The concert felt like a shrinking opportunity to sing live and connect with people in the real world for who knows how long.

I feel so thankful that we were able to go ahead and that the show was a success. Due to my own personal circumstances, I hadn’t been able to perform with a full band for several years so it was such a blessing.

After the show, the growing realisation dawned on me that the live music scene, within the space of a week, had been completely shut down.

Our band WhatsApp group became a back and forth stream of grant and funding applications from Help Muscians UK, PRS Foundation and the Arts Council, There was a sense of panic from my session musician friends that their entire livelihoods had been destroyed with no end in sight, falling between the cracks of government support, having to rely on charity relief funds.

Unsurprisingly however, it’s been music, art and culture that has largely kept people going during lockdown and the sense that artists will be forever resilient and versatile.  

Lockdown has magnified some of the everyday struggles many artists face, resulting in pressure on streaming platforms and record labels, calling for fairer distribution of revenue. Bandcamp brought some welcome relief by waiving their fees for sales.

Live stream gigs, teaching online, creating content for virtual projects, working on mixes, writing at home, trying to balance looking after children with creativity. It’s under these pressures that some incredible art will surely develop.

In my own life, my grapples with mental health have so often led to huge breakthroughs and shifts in consciousness. Art and music is so intertwined with this for me, expression will never die, it is part of the very fabric of our universe. 

I stayed up late applying for every fund that I was eligible for and was overjoyed to be awarded the Help Musicians Do It Differently grant. This opportunity will enable me to self-release a live album from the St Pancras gig, allowing the creative energy to continue flowing. To be able to extend the life of this concert gives me great joy!

I have been embracing the art of surrender – the knowing that we cannot control the impact of covid-19 on the music industry, but we can remain deeply connected with our creativity, fluidity and adaptability, forging new ways to connect with people. I am doing my best to allow the knowing that artistic expression cannot be taken away from us. Struggle has never, and will never cause art to stop flourishing.

Aruba Red

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