How Dentist-Turned-Singer Varun Carvalho is Brewing a Mini Revolution in Goa
The Goan musician talks about taking a mobile stage from school to school performing for kids, and his new album ‘Reloaded’
When it comes to independent music emerging from Goa, not more than a handful of names come to mind. The best-known among them is Varun Carvalho. The singer-composer and full-time dentist shot to fame after releasing “Amchem Goa” aka “The Goa Song” in 2013, as part of his first album, I Gotta Go Home. A straight-up appeal to Goans to save their beautiful coastal state from corruption and environmental degradation, “Amchem Goa” cemented Carvalho’s status as not just a distinct artist but also as a young, socially conscious role model the state was waiting for.
Since then, Carvalho has released three albums and several music videos, apart from working on FC Goa’s anthem “Dii Tekha,” which brought him more state-wide stardom. Currently, he is most passionate about the youth. “The youth is the key to changing the world,” he says. He’s not even talking about the voting bracket. Around five years ago, Carvalho founded a non-profit organization called Turn the Tide, involved in music education and imparting life skills for regular and underprivileged kids. While Florida-based Omeriah Malcolm Music Foundation (founded by Jimmy Malcolm in the name of Bob Marley’s late cousin) was an early supporter and in the course of traveling to schools and colleges to perform, Carvalho says it “metamorphosed” into Rise Nation Army over the last three years. “It started getting bigger and we decided we needed to organize it better,” he says.
A Tempo Traveller goods carrier opens up into a mobile stage that Carvalho and his band, Rise Nation Army, use for their tunes to energize school kids to sing along, wave flags and carry a positive chant back in their minds. Carvalho says considering it’s kids, there’s a certain meditative quality to song hooks. “We use a lot of subliminal elements like N.L.P. [Neuro-linguistic programming] and trance. It’s like music meditation. All the kids sing in one beat. That energy field is quite massive. Every school has about 1,500 kids or so chanting – it works in that sense.” Carvalho’s live band also comprises him on vocals and guitar as well as Irina Blansh (vocals), Rousseau Fernandes (electric guitar), Franky De Costa (bass), Samuel Pinto (drums) and Lovic Fernandes (samples).
The songs aren’t just for kids, as Carvalho is quick to mention. “Stand Up,” “Higher” and “Get High” and “I’m Gonna Fly” – off his upcoming fourth album Reloaded – are just about positivity in life. He says, “The basic thing is to just lose yourself in the moment and bask in the music. We work with a lot of kids, but the album is for everyone.” Reloaded, scheduled to release next month, also features renowned local names such as guitarist Elvis Lobo and keyboardist Mukesh Ghatwal.
With this new record, Carvalho says he is aiming for an “anthemic” sound that also leans into club-friendly beats and the EDM treatment, courtesy of German producer and DJ Klaas. “We plan to have a proper launch with a tour across the country with the band. We’re also thinking of doing a couple of tours to Russia and the Far East,” says Carvalho.
The more immediate agenda, however, is to expand the Rise Nation Army into more cities – including Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai. Carvalho says with a laugh that as strict as schools are perceived to be (along with their authority figure principals), no one in Goa “will risk not having us.” He jokes, “They’ll have a backlash!” Along the way, the Rise Nation Army wants to stop by rural schools as well. Carvalho doesn’t see language as a barrier considering the popularity of English, but he also says it’s about the quality of music. “It’s the energy of the music that comes through. It’s quite infectious in that sense.”
Does creating a new market for school gigs and popularity from pre-adolescents mean that Carvalho is now in a unique space artistically? “It’s fun because you’re there in the morning and got no alcohol in your system, so you’re like a kid, jumping around and you lose your self-consciousness. It’s cool in that sense, because you’re reliving your childhood days and I think that’s one of the best stages to be in, to just lose yourself in the moment.”