"I didn't know they played Arabic music in Indiana!"

This blog post title was just one of many comments I heard about a private performance I was part of for a Lebanese engagement party last week. One of many such interesting comments from that evening.

In a period of time many many musicians are talking about declining work and number of venues for performance of for what has been the longest time considered “standard” American genres what’s happening more than ever is with the rising minority population in the US comes a rising demand for entertainment for that population.

I don’t bemoan the lack of work since in some ways I find myself not having the time to do as much work as I can because I often have many conflicting possible engagements.

That fewer and fewer of those engagements have little to do with, say, Classical music or Western popular genres is telling me as much as anything.

One of those things is that the unadaptable musician is less and less likely to find work. In the freelance world you generally have to go where the work is and in this case, with a changing demographic what that translates into is the ability to play music for the audiences that are out there.

While the competition for engagements of non-standard American entertainment is still small while the market slowly adjusts itself (a constant feedback mechanism as they would say) to changing tastes I suspect more and more musicians will eventually catch on to the trend.

I’ve seen some interesting and ingenious attempts at filling these niches–most interestingly the Asian British Music entertainment group in the UK. Catering to a rising South Asian population this company books for a number of traditional as well as “fusion” type groups. For example, the string quartet Dil Se Strings String Quartet which, while playing the standard event music repertoire that one would expect from this quintessential of Western ensembles, the ensemble also has a songlist repertoire list that includes popular Bollywood and Bhangra tunes that would be perfectly recognizable to many South Asian audiences.

So while Dil Se Strings is competing with other string quartets for the same slice of the special events pie it has another pie of its own that [for now] no one in their area can touch (other than the numerous other groups being marketed by the Asian British Music company).

Over the past couple of years I’ve played as many Arabic, Greek, Indian and Internationally themed events as anything else (if not more) so it’s always with some bemusement I listen to the gripes of underworked (or out of work) musicians.

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