Singers, musicians, dancers, and DJs are among those who have most deeply felt the plight of the Covid-19 pandemic that has continued to halt business as usual, for now, more than a year.
At this stage, where the world is inoculating millions, as a way out of the disruption, local entertainers have also taken this step to recovery of their livelihoods.
The River Road Pan Wizards are vaccinated and ready to perform to welcome guests back to Grenada and to Sandals. This assurance has come from band leader Michael Robertson, better known as ‘Blaze’. “When the Covid vaccine became available all members chose to get vaccinated. It was a no-brainer. I am proud of my team for independently realizing the importance of getting vaccinated and the obvious implications.”
The popular band has also felt the pains of the Covid shut down. Typically, a 10-member subsection of the larger band would have enjoyed regular weekly gigs at Sandals Grenada Resort, Calabash Beach Resort and many other establishments, and private functions. Things were going so well that the band was able to invest in better gear and had plans to invest even further. “We had just sourced some pan cases, so it was perfectly imperfect timing for that expense. Aside from that, some members depended solely on entertaining as their source of income. Fortunately, we were able to offer a small stipend for select members who really needed it. We must look out for one another. At this point we’re family.”
Promoter Kim Knowles of IMG Entertainment shared that recovery of the industry is slow but everyone has to play their part in accelerating the process. “The pandemic has decimated the entertainment sector. So far there is no recovery on a large scale. Tourism industry numbers are down so there is no way we can expect hotels and restaurants to hire as much as they did before. The local audience alone is not enough. The fact is we need better uptake of the vaccine to revive travel and entertainment.”
Despite the challenges, she advises artists to continue working on their craft. “Prepare for when things get better. Engage and grow your audience online, improve your repertoire and skills so that the opportunities will flow for you as business gradually resumes.”
Meanwhile, the Pan Wizards have participated in a few virtual events and the occasional small function, Blaze is adamant that the first step to recovery is vaccination. “The first most critical step to moving forward is for people to get vaccinated. I would love to see more entertainers lending their voice to encouraging people to get vaccinated. We need to hear the entertainers, the church leaders everyone coming forward and encouraging each other instead of leaving it up to government. Vaccination is everybody’s business.”
Knowles added, “With the reopening of a resort like Sandals that provides nightly entertainment this is an encouraging opportunity for our local industry. The cultural exchange that takes place… literally cannot happen via any other in-person event now as the guests are not permitted to leave the resort. We have to bring our culture, our music and entertainment to them. This is a much-needed reboot of the industry and we hope to see more resorts reopening soon so our entertainers can once again earn a living doing what they love doing most.”
There is some excitement and relief ahead for the band. Blaze expressed, “It’s an exciting time now that the vaccines are available locally and for the tourists in their home countries. We love performing at Sandals, it’s always a special vibe. We are grateful that we have been able to be back doing what we love.”