MUMBAI—We always have known Pritam as a calm individual and that it takes a lot to ruffle him. He has been singularly away from any politics or manipulations as a composer and a public figure.
So it was a surprise when rumors began to circulate on the ‘Net that he had been uncharacteristically unprofessional about his live concert in New Jersey Apr. 7, when the organizers alleged that they had to cancel the show because of him, that over 3000 people went back from the venue, and that they would have to be refunded even though Pritam and his ‘band’ had been paid but did not perform.
When India-West contacted him in Dallas, where a show is scheduled on Apr. 13, Pritam came clean about his stand, denying charges and summing up the crux of the whole imbroglio in a few sentences. “Promoter politics here is not new, and every artist from India and Pakistan who has performed here will verify this. As a senior musician, I feel it is my responsibility to also stand up for my music community. When they had nothing else to stand on, they began to character-assassinate me. But I have all the emails as evidence.”
He also stressed that he is not only ready but really WANTS to perform for his fans in New Jersey. “I have told the organizers that when they met me. I have even given them possible dates, and above all, THERE IS SIMPLY NO QUESTION OF TAKING ANY MORE MONEY. I have not come to America with eight singers like Nakash Aziz, Amit Mishra and Harshdeep Kaur and my musicians and technical team to NOT perform! My show in Chicago was super-successful, and on Friday, we are performing in Dallas.”
What about all the allegations against him?
In reply, Pritam candidly explained how things work and what went wrong this time. “When I was leaving from India, everything was as per the normal procedure for any artist. The procedure goes like this: the show (I was to perform in 8 cities in US) is sold by an international promoter to a national promoter, who conducts the promotions of all the shows there. My contact and contract are thus with the international promoter and the national promoter.”
He went on, “The national promoter sells the shows to different local promoters. Before we sign a contract, there is something called a “technical rider” that is pre-approved by all the promoters, even the local ones. Let me explain what that is. My sound, light and graphics engineers work out the riders. This means what we will require at the venue of the performance and includes the numbers and positions of lights, microphones, and mixers and so on.”
Pritam added that when they landed in New Jersey after an all-night flight, his team did not sleep but went directly to the venue to check everything. They found the light and graphic riders missing and informed him. There is something called a “crush rod” that is part of the rider, and they had even changed the design!
“The attitude of a few promoters must change,” said the composer vehemently. “Indian and Pakistani artistes are taken very lightly in this department. Many artists send their riders but are trapped when they reach America as the riders are not met. This is nothing but an attempt to scrounge on the expenses by the promoters.”
Pritam explained that he gets a certain sum of money from the international promoters. Within that, he books and pays all the artists, musicians and technicians who will travel with him. It is then the responsibility of the promoters to check everything from their side. “I do not even insist on an expensive hotel,” said the composer. “But I cannot compromise on the riders, especially as it is not even a solo show.”
He added, “In this specific case, when my technical team said that we cannot do the show, I took it up with the local promoters, and they said that they would postpone the show from Saturday to Sunday. Like a fool, I believed that and I even tweeted about this. But they kept it from me that they never announced it, so the audience came on Saturday and went back! Till late, and with just a message, they did not even message me that a Sunday show was not going to be held! Now, if I have come with a big team to New Jersey, IT IS TO PERFORM, RIGHT?”
The composer rues that they then began to character-assassinate him! “They made it seem that I had no intention of performing, and that I made excuses, and that I did not even respond to their knocks on the door of my hotel room! At that time, I was sitting with my singer Nakash Aziz in his room with a common friend who had come to see us. And why should I not answer a knock on my door?”
Concluded Pritam, “I feel I have been deprived of my audience in New Jersey, because of the internal politics between promoters. I reiterate that I want to perform in New Jersey again, but I do not know if it will happen. And I STAND BY THE TECHNICAL RIDERS. On that, there can be no compromise.”