Technology is taking leaps and bounds in bringing the world closer and giving us a more connected society. We can now interact and respond to people living across the meridian, achieving a broadening of culture, habits and arts. Virasat, the music, arts and culture festival that was held for the first time in 1995, is a saga of love, culture and fringe arts that has grown in tandem with technology and the internet, over the last 21 years.
Towards the end of every year, Virasat celebrates the cultural extravaganza of bringing together artists from the corners of India, and even across the world, in the valley of Dehradun. The festival was started by Mr. Rajeev Kumar Singh and his friends, in an attempt to bring the best of music and culture to the city of Dehradun, and needless to say, Virasat has given the residents of Dehradun a festival to look forward to, every year.
What’s particularly endearing here is to see the way it has grown. A festival that regularly features the likes of the Wadali Brothers, Advaita, Nooran Sisters and some of the biggest names in Indian music, Virasat proudly upholds the tradition of Garhwal, along with promoting native art from across the nation, including Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh. What started as contacting musicians and artisans through friends, relatives and acquaintances is now thriving within the broader realm of the Internet.
"With the advent of multiple platforms, creative individuals from far-off cities are now getting the opportunity"
With the advent of multiple platforms to share music, artwork and the likes, creative individuals from far-off cities are now getting the opportunity to be in touch with Virasat, thereby bringing themselves to the big stage in front of a crowd that touched 20,000 when the Wadali Brothers performed on Saturday, December 12, 2015. Take for instance Indian band Advaita, and you hear the impact of being featured on music streaming services like Apple Music is having on the music group that classifies itself as “eclectic fusion” or “world music” – a kaleidoscope of Western and Eastern music strains fused into one. Western vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Chayan Adhikari, says, “At the end of the day, if a piece of music appeals to you, if you close your eyes and really enjoy it, and not think about who the performer is, it works – as long as you like it. Technology is dissolving previous boundaries of you having to have achieved certain things, and with the kind of tools available now – many software packages give you music tools without you needing to really learn or master an instrument, and musical sensibility is becoming more important than ever, than a focus on mastering technical aspects.”
Harri Stojka, the Austrian Gypsy Jazz band, in performance with Langas, Rajasthan
Dehradun-based progressive band, Bhairavas
The windows are wider, for both ends – the festival, and the performers. Talking to Rajeev Kumar Singh, General Secretary of REACH, the organisation behind Virasat’s success over the last two decades, what’s interesting to observe is his firm roots in the age-old principles of excellence, while his reliance on new-age technology (music streaming, social media, wirelessly synchronised audio setup) is what aids him in sustaining his principles. Within the constraints of the budget of an independent festival promoting obscure arts without hiking profit, Singh regularly entertains new, budding artists – over multiple social media platforms, music streaming services and the likes. The massive popularity of YouTube brought Coke Studio closer to the world, and the Wadali Brothers is the age old link between Singh first listening to their music on Doordarshan, to featuring them in Virasat, to Coke Studio highlighting them on their own platform. Today, artists from Austria, Scotland and the likes approach him on social platforms, sharing their work published on music sharing services and earning an invitation to India. Gypsy jazz artists Harri Stojka perform a fusion act with the Langa folk musicians of Rajasthan, proving to be a highlight in the growing reach of Virasat, all thanks to social media and the Internet. Incidentally, the network often drops to 2G every now and then, and WiFi services are not the best, in Dehradun. Yet, growing bigger has always been a trend here, thanks to the rise in technology.
"Such incidences lay a stronger foundation for the improving connectivity scenario in India"
This is possibly one of the most ideal examples of the internet and its influence. What previously was isolated incidences of artists meeting each other on tour is now a thriving exchange of ideas and culture across social media, sharing and publishing tools. Such incidences lay a stronger foundation for the improving connectivity scenario in India – if 2G networks can bring artists up to the forefront, imagine what the likes of Aquila, Loon and increasing 4G networks by Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance can do.
Right now, Singh’s objective is to promote Dehradun and Virasat into a “destination” festival, and the Internet will play the perfect catalyst to his vision. He aims to bring together all local attractions around Dehradun (Mussoorie, Rajaji National Park, etc.), and present a destination for artists, enthusiasts, travellers and photographers alike to come together in the chilly winters and celebrate the glory of Indian music, in sync with the flourish of various genres of universal music. Right now, Virasat is massive within Dehradun, and has massive potential to be a headlining celebration of native arts and artwork of India.
The Internet, like mentioned before, is the perfect catalyst that can aid the festival in becoming bigger, and with growing interest in wider variety of music, promotion of native performers on social platforms and the ever-growing interest in travel and photography, Virasat is the ideal flag-bearer to reflect upon the growing scenario of connected India.
After all, even with Digital India, it is festivals like Virasat that promote our core culture, in fusion with worldwide arts.