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In Conversation with Virah- The Band

In the present, no matter where we stay, we experience disconnect with our source: Nature. We keep on doing different things to stay connected with it, and so does this month’s guest on ‘Spotlight’!

In this edition of Spotlight, we interviewed Rumit Walia, lead Singer from Virah Band that was formed with the intention of addressing the love of separation.

Q1. Elaborate on the band's story and how you address the love of separation

Rumit: The band has three members: Utsav Bhardwaj (backing vocalist and guitarist), Tarun Kumar (percussionist) and I, Rumit Walia (lead singer), and all of us belong to the same Engineering College. Me being the super senior and Tarun being the super junior. We found our love for music common and used to jam sometimes. Utsav is someone who has been learning music since he was a toddler and is extremely talented whereas Tarun is very natural when it comes to percussion. I have been singing since I was in 8th standard, making songs, swapping lyrics etc. We also have people contributing to us, like Kamal, who is lyricist. We started out as ‘Rain Basera’ because anywhere we used to go, we used to settle in and start singing. I remember performing in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand. Later when we all got jobs in different sectors and got busy with it, we got separated from the band and ourselves. It is then we realised that we are also separated from Mother Earth and music, however the love still exists. So, we decided to explore more about love for separation and hence our band: Virah.

Q2. Typically, when we say climate change or environment, we usually think awareness is with marches, some presentations etc. So how did it occur to you about creating awareness through music?

Rumit: There is no movement without slogans. Every Climate Strike we see people have slogans, drums, speakers, and mics. People sing, dance in every movement to empower people around and this made us realise that performative arts have power. I came across this video from Rajasthan where people were protesting and demanding for their rights and they had a song about it and that was interesting. We see many people who make original songs on climate change, environment etc. We stick to creating awareness through existing songs. They have a great impact. There are songs we’ll remember on our deathbed too! Point being, we adapt to songs, we remember them, then why not use this. I remember under our organisation ‘Tears of Earth’ we did this awareness regarding wet and dry waste segregation. We went with ‘Neela nahi Geela’ (Trans. Blue is not for Wet Waste) so people don’t get confused. Then we started experimenting with rhymes, Bollywood and Hollywood songs, Classical songs such that it sticks in people’s minds.

Q3. What role do you think music plays in creating social and environmental change? How do you see Virah Band contributing to that change?

Rumit: These days GenZ, whenever they come to any events, they expect more than a lecture and discussion. So, bands like us come and provide refreshment along with some message. We are so used to listening the popular songs, but when we hear the different lyrics to the tune we are used to, we become keen on listening the lyrics and then it sticks in our mind. Discussions/ lectures last for hours, Songs- maximum limit is 3 mins, and if coke studio, then 8mins *chuckles*. To be honest I believe that the mainstream artists, for instance Ricky Kej, A.R. Rahman can make a major difference, even if they announce in one single concert that they would give up single use plastic, so many of their fans would adopt the same. Music touches heart and soul and reaches to the layman and kids. At this point we are well versed with the topics which makes us create music quickly. Hence, I believe, we create a difference where people can at least follow what has been said and contribute to environment conservation.

Q4. What do you think as a band are the issues you want to communicate with people and why?

Rumit: We as Virah, believe that two major issues that need to be addressed immediately are Climate Change and Global Peace. I belong to a farmer’s family, so it has been imbibed in me to protect the nature around me. I have been working for environment since I was in 8th -9th where I formed an organisation Tears of the Earth, which originally was title of song me and Kamal never wrote. Later, when I met likeminded Utsav and Tarun, we started officially educating people via songs as medium. We usually cover local issues with regards to gender equality, climate, caste discrimination etc. as to where we are going to perform. As an environmentalist it is important that inclusiveness is one of my core values, because I am not just standing for myself but also my brother from indigenous community. I am standing for global peace, because without that I cannot see climate change being reversed. Similarly with gender equality. For Virah, it is of great significance that we connect with people and we tailor our music as per people’s perspective and understanding.

Q5. What are your favourite locations to perform?

Rumit: A tough question *laughs*. Well, Virah loves to engage with people so technically anywhere and everywhere. We want people to sing along, dance along basically to be with us, not separate from us, so majorly public places. We have been fortunate also play at international and national level events like U.S. Embassy, Global Peace Leadership Conference, ITPO Pragati Maidan, some of the G20 meetings and even Air Force Station where officers were equally concerned about these issues which was a surprise for me.

Q6. How do you personally practice what you preach in terms of environmental sustainability and promoting unity in your daily lives?

Rumit: Personally, I believe to focus on 5 things: Roti (Food), Kapda (Clothes), Makan (House), Chal Chalan (Transportation), and Phone. Focus on buying and eating local. My diet consists maximum of plant-based food. Fast Fashion is second most polluting industry, so I ensure I am mindful while buying clothes quantity and quality. Buying stuff everyday just because it is sustainable is what makes it unsustainable. Now house is something where I adopt practices like segregation of waste, recycling e-waste and plastic properly. Probably, if possible, one can have solar panels installed. Fourth is chal chalan, mindful of travelling. Opting for less emitting options like walking, cycling, just being conscious What option is available. And lastly phone, I used to spend so much time on Instagram, mindlessly scrolling and then when I realised how much meaning less time I’m spending on it, I uninstalled it. I spend more time focusing on reading about climate, environmental conservation etc. I try my best on individual level and ask people to do the same.

Q7. Looking into the future, what are your aspirations and goals for the band in terms of addressing these pressing issues and making a positive impact?

Rumit: We as band look forward to dedicating more time to band while sustaining our professions. We would like to record our songs and release them on social platforms such that a maximum level of awareness is created. I wish we can open for bands like Coldplay and even probably be like them. I believe there are two types of people, who care too much about the planet and those who almost don’t care about it. So, I believe concerts would be a great medium to lure them in and make them present to the current problem. Regardless, we as a band will always focus on promoting climate/social justice, peace, and science through performative arts.

Q8. Rumit’s special message to readers:

I personally am fascinated with Global Peace, Environment and GeoinformaticsI became an environmentalist, a peace builder and believer of science of technology. The Ocean, The Space and The Antarctica, we share these three globally and it should be protected globally, hence Global Peace. Environment because it sustains us and Geoinformatics because that too for human benefit, believing in science and technology and innovation because a human never stops. Frankly, I mean, Earth has always recreated itself even after dinosaurs because Earth always recovers. It's always about human survival.

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