There is a small space between the last song on your set list and the audience reaction that follows. In that split second a thought germinates, coloured in doubt. Lately it has grown in my mind into a dark orchard of bitter fruit. In a city where practically every musician gets booked for gigs and is dubbed the next big thing simply because they get on stage, how can you tell what is genuinely good? Is this just one big mutual admiration society? Do I have any talent or am I just another daydreamer with a guitar? But, before this begins to read like some bitter diatribe about flailing ambition and faltering expectations, here’s a positive story.
Late last year, just as full of questions, I went on a mini-tour to Europe, performing at venues in London and Paris in an attempt to put my doubts to rest. Although being booked at such venues ought to have buoyed my self-confidence I didn’t want to let my head swell too quickly.
The first gig I played was at Monkey Chews, a quaint little venue in London’s Camden district. The room was full of musicians guarding their instruments, scanning the room discreetly and exchanging silent smiles with their peers. But what really caught my eye was the audience. Unlike Dubai, where people are only there because they need somewhere to hang out for the evening, these people were there specifically for the music. The doubts about my abilities returned, but this time they left me feeling invigorated. This time it was the quality of my music that mattered, not just my presence. My set was not just going to be heard, it was going to be listened to. And that meant the applause, the ‘woohoo’-ing and the thanks after the set actually meant something.
Performing is about feeling like you matter in some way, that what you have to say actually strikes a chord with someone. But if every artist is celebrated for what they do rather than how well they do it that feeling
is lost. In a mature creative culture, audience criticism is just as important as artistic ability. Giving equal value to everything you hear or see is as good as giving no value at all. Art should be feted because it’s important and worthwhile, not just because there’s a gap in our cultural agenda that needs filling.
To hear Gayathri’s music visit www.myspace.com/gayathrikrishnan. Zahra will return after Ramadan. In the meantime you can hear her with top local talent on Open Mic every Sat from 8pm-10pm on Dubai Eye 103.8.