WILLEMSTAD – The Association of Curaçaoan Musicians (AMAK) expects that a majority of musicians on the island will have to give up their jobs due to the corona crisis.
A lot of musicians indicate that they weren’t in the best of situations before the crisis started and that they should’ve received help and the recognition they deserve from the government and trade groups a lot earlier.
There are currently about 2.000 musicians residing on Curaçao, of which 300 are paying members of AMAK. The musicians are currently losing 50 thousand guilders (25.029 euros) per month while the outlooks are bleak. Trade group AMAK says that it does not have the funds to help its members.
“AMAK barely has any income”, says president Feco Gomez. “95 percent of the yearly income generated by the Tumba Festival goes to the participating artists. The costs are high and what is left over is barely enough for AMAK to keep the office going and pay the utilities.”
Dulce Koopman speaking to the president of AMAK Feco Gomez ( Papiamentu spoken)
The organization also has a tax debt and had a loss of 160.000 guilders (80.000 euros) last year, which was covered by a loan. The trade group says that it approached the government for help several times, even before the pandemic started.
According to AMAK there were talks with the government about support for the Curaçao Festical Center complex, the musical education program which has been stagnant due to a lack of funding, and subsidies. But those talks didn’t provide any concrete results.
According to singer and musician Reinier Lijfrock, musicians and artists on Curaçao ‘don’t get the recognition they deserve’. That’s why the crisis is hitting them hard. Additionally ‘the AMAK doesn’t do enough for its members’ is Lijfrock’s viewpoint.
Lijfrock himself has several cancelled engagements. He performs at birthday parties, funerals, weddings, and hotels amongst others. Due to the measures there are not as many performances and less income. He has to use his savings to support his family. “This is a hard blow”, says Lijfrock.
Dulce Koopman speaking to singer Reinier Lijfrock (Papiamentu spoken)
Lijfrock isn’t sure about what is going to happen. Loosening of the corona measures will not be enough so that musicians can work normally again. Lijfrock is using the free time forced upon him to reorganize his repertoire and his projects.
Culture in danger
Pianist and composer Randal Corsen experienced how many of his performances got cancelled, including two big ones in the Netherlands, one on Aruba, and a documentary about the music of Curaçao.
According to Corsen it’s currently very hard to survive as a musician. He is however in a more advantageous position than his colleagues because he can go back to giving lessons and because he can count on the income of his wife who still has a job. The future worries Corsen however: will the Curaçaoan culture survive the crisis? And what will happen after?
Pianist Randal Corsen on his concerns (Dutch spoken)
Corsen remains positive however despite the disappointing situation. He has spent countless hours practicing on his piano during the lockdown for example. His advice to his fellow musicians and artists is to keep on working on your own personal development and productions to ensure that you’re ready when the situation normalizes. “Prepare yourself so that you’re ready to go when the circumstances improve.”