PETALING JAYA: When a two-week national MCO lockdown was enforced in March, singer Norziyah Yahya, better known as Ozie, thought she and her band Take 5 could ride it out.
“We thought it would be all right. We didn’t have a clue how bad it would become,” she said. “Two weeks became four, then a month, and now it’s been nearly eight straight months without work.”
After a month without income, and a speedy return to the stage looking unlikely, Ozie turned her love of cooking into a way to keep herself going.
“I decided I have to do something. Even when the music was doing well, I’d make food for friends and do home deliveries because I love to cook and people liked my food, but now it’s become what I do,” she told FMT.
“I’m cooking my signature Penang laksa two or three times a week and sending it to people’s homes. I’ve asked some of my musician friends who are also out of work to help me deliver it.”
She has also started selling second-hand clothes, with performances on Shoppee Live. Although she can’t see the audience, getting to sing to customers allows her to scratch the musical itch.
It hasn’t been an easy year for musicians, who have waited desperately for live music to be allowed again, even as restaurants and shops have been allowed to stay open.
“It’s easy for people to say ‘Go work in an office, go get a job’. But that’s easier said than done, we’ve been doing music our whole lives, this is what we do and we love it,” Ozie said.
While some musicians have resorted to selling their equipment to raise cash, Ozie said she told “the boys” to “hang in there, because we need to get back on our feet when this is over.”
Her group Take 5 had been booked solid until 2021. Ozie wonders if that schedule can be a reality again with many venues on their last legs and those that survive likely to cut costs and slash their budget for performers.
“It’s like we’re starting all over again. When we started, we didn’t care if we were making money, we just wanted to go up there and play. Now we’ve got the experience and all our regular spots, and suddenly it’s like we’re back to square one. It’s tiring and it’s scary, I try not to think about it.”
She worries about the next generation of singers and musicians whose dreams might be extinguished before they can take shape. “If something doesn’t happen soon, the music will fade away.”