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Zero, Complete zero! Sumeet Tappoo: Why should I pay for it?

Solomoni Biumaiono
Sunday, December 23, 2012

Music piracy is a massive problem in Fiji but recently we talked to one of Fiji's best ever musical export Sumeet Tappoo who has made waves in India with his semi classical and devotional music.

Tappoo ranks beside George "Fiji" Veikoso, Sakiusa Bulicokocoko and other musicians who have made their names in the international arena.

The Lautoka boy made the move to India several years ago and where his debut pop album titled Meri Deewangi, released by Bollywood Film Giants Eros International and it was in the Top Ten Charts for just under 40 weeks.

He has performed 400 solo concerts in countries all over the world and recently he was in Fiji to mark the 25th year of his performing career that started in Lautoka as a young boy.

His biggest achievement so far was singing with some of the best Indian semi classical singers like Shankar Mahadevan, Suresh Wadka, Sadhana Sargam and Hariharan and his latest achievement is producing a movie sound track with Bollywood diva Sunidhi Chauhan for a big budget movie to be released next year.

Even in the big entertainment industry in Mumbai, Tappoo found out that piracy is rampant.

Mumbai is home to Bollywood, probably the biggest entertainment industry in the world besides Hollywood.

Tappoo admitted that piracy is problem musicians as well as actors and actresses do not have a solution to.

"It's a massive problem in the streets because the darma element is has gone from today's society I tell people, people who don't understand...if you have people who sold clothes and if I hire the shop next to you and sell the exact same clothes on free of charge the guy next door will go bankrupt within a month and close their shop. That is what is happening to our industry, people are just downloading free of charge. There is no value for the music, no value for the money and for the effort we put in. It's all download free, so why should I pay for it," Tappoo says.

"Hollywood to some extent it is still there but in our industry no artist gets any money from the royalty from our album sales, its zero, Yeah its zero. Complete zero! Because where is the respect?" Tappoo adds.

He adds that he was personally affected by piracy and following the release of one album a check done by his management revealed a very startling fact about piracy.

"You know my album Mere Diwange, it made the top ten in India the feedback was that you can get it from over 5000 websites free of charge and I'm a new entrant to the industry and you can imagine people like Sonu Nigam who are superstars. No one pays for it."

He says it is not easy for him to tolerate such things because his livelihood is greatly affected and musicians have been forced to rethink their careers as their talent, time as well as their financial backers are rethinking about investing.

"The album market has gone out of fashion now. Who is doing the album? Over the past year there had been 10,000 releases in India, I'm talking about the mass pop genre why because there is no returns, there is no returns for the companies, it's not only the artists, the companies cannot invest in music because no one is going buy it. Because the moment it comes out if its film music it's just free," Tappoo says.

He adds while there is no solution in sight for piracy and even though it is costing musicians billions of dollars around the world, Tappoo cannot point a finger at the public.

"People would like to save money. By the way I don't download I have my own iTune accounts. If a movie comes out I go to the music store and I buy the CD because I am an artist myself. If it's available for free there is no one to blame over here, you don't blame the consumer, you don't blame the producer, you don't blame the musicians either," he said.

"Piracy is the biggest problem we have. There is no solution for that right now. The solution is basically that musicians have to accept it that they will never be able to make a living for us its our bread and butter."

One solution or alternative that singers and other artists around the world are using is going on extensive tours where they hold concerts in cities all over the world.

"So now the only thing left for us is concerts. Our source of income is concert. It's a sad part of our industry but you can't do much about it. Everyone with a smile will say this is what will happen we will have to smile, accept it and say OK we move on. The only way we can make a living and make money for our family is through concerts, I don't think the generation after us will realise it," Tappoo said.

To that effect, Tappoo is greatly saddened by the state of the music industry in Fiji and his one great wish is to see more live performances from local artists but one thing he realised it is not their faulty as there is no proper concert hall in Fiji to start with.

"The national gymnasium is not a music auditorium, the Civic Centre is not a music auditorium. The acoustic is pathetic. The Dome (Vodafone Arean) is not a music auditorium. This country should have a music auditorium. Over here we don't have that. I'm not just talking about Indian music, Western music as well.

"There should be a music auditorium, you know in Suva it is the capital of our country and we dont have a hall and we have to perform in a gymnasium which is good for basketball and I feel sorry for the engineers because they have to work around that," Tappoo said.

He said if people wanted perfection from musicians the acoustics had to be right and said gyms were meant for sporting events and not for singing.

Tappoo adds that the civic centre was designed in such a way the sound goes diagonal and the musicians can lose the audience very quickly.

"I would like to encourage people over here to create the facilities which create good sound, the equipment is there, the sound is there and we have very good engineers as well," Tappoo said.

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