SINGAPORE – Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Singaporean DJ Sivanesh Pillai was making a name for himself both at home and regionally.
The former resident DJ at Ce La Vi, on the rooftop of Marina Bay Sands, had played in India and Myanmar, as well as at a music festival in Thailand.
But with the pandemic and its restrictions on travel and social gatherings, the gigs dried up.
Mr Sivanesh, 35, told The Straits Times recently: “When the bars and clubs first closed, I was nervous and worried – entertainment shutting down means I have no work and no money coming through. But I was okay with that because I was just looking at the bigger picture.
“It’s been two years now and I’m still not able to go back to work – that’s been disheartening.”
Nightlife establishments were forced to shut on March 26, 2020, due to the worsening Covid-19 situation and have not been open since.
Restrictions have forced Mr Sivanesh, who was also playing in bars and clubs such as Tanjong Beach Club and Kilo Lounge, to give up his usual means of livelihood.
Having lived through the Sars crisis in 2003 as a secondary school student, he had expected Covid-19 restrictions to be just as short-lived.
But the current pandemic has dragged on, forcing the DJ to look at other means of income to survive.
In September 2020, he got a temporary job managing a Covid-19 swab centre.
“I was close to being very desperate. No money was coming in. I was relying on my savings. Savings, you know, are meant for rainy days. But it was being depleted, from paying rent and supporting my family,” he said.
His entire family had been hit financially by the pandemic, including his 66-year-old father, who is a taxi driver, and his 64-year-old mother, who was laid off as a customer service officer in a hotel.
After his stint at the swab centre, Mr Sivanesh, who has a bachelor’s degree in business studies, found part-time work at food beverage outlets. He recently got a full-time job managing an isolation facility.
Though unable to find work as a DJ, Mr Sivanesh continues to practise his craft daily.
“When the pandemic hit, I was faced with a lot of existential questions. Now I’m not allowed to do what I am known for, what I’m all about – what is my identity now?