The sixty-year-old Surasree – a musical instrument store in the capital's Science Laboratory area – is silent. The crowd of amateur and professional musicians has been missing from the store for the last few months. No one is seen tuning the strings of guitars, changing the scales of harmoniums or trying to play the flute before buying.
Still, the guitars and ukuleles are showcased in rows. Flutes are kept in a basket in a corner. Tabla, naal, sitar, harmonium and other traditional musical instruments are placed here and there around the store. A layer of dust is clearly visible on the instruments' smooth surfaces.
The Covid-19 pandemic has consumed the ever enchanting harmonies of the musical instruments and created an uneasy silence over the atmosphere as almost no one visits the stores to buy any musical instrument nowadays.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Surasree had to lay off a number of employees. They are even ready to sell musical instruments on a marginal profit.
Moreover, they plan to close one of their branches due to economic losses they have been incurring due to the pandemic.
According to the businessmen, the total sale of musical instruments has dropped around 60-70 percent.
"All of our artisans at the factory are on leave, as we do not have any order. We are not making anything in advance now. We have a pile of expensive unsold musical instruments. Rather, our instruments are getting damaged now as those were not sold on time," said Asim Mondal, manager of Surasree.
This situation is not exclusive to Surasree. Other musical instrument stores are also dealing with the same situation. Few renowned stores have shifted to the online platform as people are more interested to buy online than visiting a store physically.
"The online platform has made us more responsible. We cannot compromise with the product's quality as customers are ordering from us because we are famous. We cannot let them down. We are trying to provide our best services," said Asim.
National university student Abdur Rahim Shaon is one such buyer. This pandemic made life boring for him. Neither does he have any academic classes, nor has he many things to do at home. Recently, while scrolling through random Facebook, he was suddenly reminded of the days he used to hum to tunes with his friends who played the guitar.
He never could learn or practise playing the guitar as he never had enough time. But now he has time. So, the very next day, he ordered an Indian Signature guitar for Tk5,500 from Civic Music Shop.
"I bought this guitar from the money that I saved. During this pandemic, spending this amount might not seem wise to some people. But I found it worthwhile. I will learn the basics from YouTube. There are enough contents there and I do not find it safe to attend any class physically or invest money on online classes," said Shaon.
The pandemic has inspired many people like Shaon to learn to play a musical instrument as they have enough time while staying at home. But the businessmen said this is not enough to compensate for the losses.
"The sale of beginners' musicals instruments – especially guitar and ukulele – has increased amid the Covid-19 pandemic. But beginner's interest in music is not enough for us to survive," said Sariful Islam Rabbi, musician and managing director of Civic Music Point.
"Around 90 percent of these newbie music lovers will lose their interest in a few days," Rabbi guessed.
Usually, musical shows, concerts and cultural programmes take place around the whole year. So the professional musicians also buy instruments or fix the old instruments throughout the year. Those things have stopped now.
Even professional musicians are not buying instruments in recent times.
"Our sales are normally low just before the Eid. Other than that, we sell more than Tk50,000 each day. But since April, that has barely happened," shared Rabbi.
Production of locally made musical instruments had nearly died before the last couple of years, when the demand began rising again. But that did not happen this year.
The musical instrument industry is mostly dependent on import from China and India.
Imports had halted for the last few months due to the pandemic. Now, it has resumed from few countries. The businessmen said it would take some time for the situation to be normal again.
"Music is more of a hobby than a career in our country and investing money on it is a luxury. This year the pandemic has affected many people badly, and it seems like it will affect this little industry too," said Samrat Sarker, co-president of Science Laboratory Baddojontro Dokan Samiti.