The “byte" bazaar was hot last week. My phone kept ringing with requests for a “byte" about singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s detention at the Delhi airport for carrying undeclared cash in excess of the permitted amount. The story was reported by every publication, some even giving it front page coverage, even though performances by eminent artistes hardly ever get unconditional attention in their publications. Are we to believe that outstanding performances by artistes or their respective contributions to the world of music are worth nought to the media, whereas reported misdeeds are deemed newsworthy? The amount of news space dedicated to the artiste in question for his reported misconduct far exceeds the attention he has received for his music.

Wrong note: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

In this regard I tried to speak to a number of event organizers to see if they had industry-specific information, not available to search-engine crawlers like me. The majority of parties I spoke to requested anonymity and were quite certain that being quoted publicly could cause problems. Many were unaware of the lawful means of transferring a performance fee to Pakistani artistes since they had not had occasion to host artistes from Pakistan. The only organization that agreed to go on record was the NGO Routes 2 Roots (www.routes2roots.com), who’re known for their association with performers from the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries, and whose founder-member Rakesh Gupta kindly shared his understanding of the issue. From the information provided, it seems a Pakistani artiste performing in India would require an Indian artiste management agency or artiste manager who is an Indian national to represent his or her interests in the country. The manager can receive a performance fee on behalf of the Pakistani artiste, with due tax deduction at source of 10.3%. If the visiting artiste has a PAN, or permanent account number, in India, the manager can then pay the performance fee to the foreign artiste either by demand draft or electronic transfer, with a further tax deduction of 10%. In the event that the artiste does not have a PAN number in India, a tax deduction of 20% is necessary before the visiting artiste can receive his or her payment. Further, if the visiting artiste does not have a manager to represent him or her in India, he or she can enter into a direct agreement with an event organizer and can receive the performance fee through electronic transfer after a 30% tax deduction.

If that’s all it takes, I’m left wondering why everyone is refusing to discuss the issue publicly. After all, the faster we sort out these issues, the sooner we can keep inviting artistes we would like to hear in India, and avoid problems of the kind that we have all been busy “byte-ing" about. Perhaps it is also time to examine the regulations governing performances by Indian artistes in Pakistan and see if simple solutions could be found to the many problems that hinder cultural exchange between the two countries.

Write to Shubha at musicmatters@livemint.com

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