Zal Kanga-Parabia, also known as Ru, is a passionate individual exploring nature in all artistic mediums, speaks with Avenoir about the beauty of our world and how much of a significance Nature has in finding our true Self.
When filming ‘30.30 Child’ there are snippets of you traveling from Switzerland, Iceland, then back home to Perth. How does each environment you immerse into influence your music?
All these places I’ve been leave a mark. I remember the line by Justin Vernon, “I have buried you, every place I’ve been” and it really explains what I find in these places away from home. There’s a certain serenity you feel, an introversion and expression of your sense of self you find while walking about on mountains, in snow, on vast plains, especially when they aren’t places you’re used to. My heart is constantly looking for lost memories, people and places I feel and recall, from books or my life and I see them in nature. They remind me of those that have influenced me and things they have given me – emotions, happiness, love, excitement, lust. Nature expresses these emotions so purely and clearly in its movements it’s hard not to be influenced. I find myself thinking about all that I am when looking at a leaf, focussing on each small part of it, or feeling the shift in temperature as the winds change on a peak, or the silence of camping alone far from other people. These things flow deep into my mind and pour out through my music as it’s the subconscious I usually try to tap into when writing.
This song was actually written when I returned from these cold, desolate places, and it’s about children I was around back in Australia at the time and some of my friends and their hearts and the admiration I have for their nature of fearlessness and honesty; which contrasted completely with the way I felt when I was quite alone. It’s really a beautiful thing to have different environments teaching us different lessons about who we are. They change so quickly just like us.
From the copper mines polluting the water in the Gulf of Mexico, the deforestation for palm oil in Malaysia, the death of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and now the situation of Roe 8 towards cultural sites of Indigenous heritage here in Perth – how can one exactly be hopeful for the environment when the human population is so far into destroying the seed of its existence?
Education, passion, love, understanding. I live in Beeliar, and the wetlands are not only the heritage from the past, but also a legacy for the future. Through my travels, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful places on earth – most of which I would say are right here at home in Australia. And I can’t help but photograph and write about them. They completely define me and I say specifically not that I define them, but they as me. I’ve looked at this idea pretty deeply, especially through landscape photography. There’s an instinct to take a photograph on a huge peak, in front of a huge lake, with the northern lights or the cosmos. These photographs, videos, stories, songs influenced by nature reflect the one that creates them, so me, yes. And it’s quite common for those places said to be “owned” by people who occupy that space. It becomes to a viewer: I am the mountains, I am the cosmos, I am the stars… I own the stars? No. To me this is important to where we find these images reflect the place of what we are or were, what the place means to us, who it makes us, what it gives us. That is my inspiration – that people feel this need to be and experience the reality, the beauty of what nature can offer and how it makes us truly feel, and not from the other side of a phone screen or headphones. Not everyone has this opportunity, and therefore I feel quite strongly towards giving a sense of the place of where I’ve been and how it makes me feel through these art forms. That’s what I can give, education wise, a feeling, a knowledge of the beauty and NEED for these places.
We long for the wild, we miss it when we step out of our front doors and onto the road, because we don’t step out into a forest. And what would we create if there was none of this? My influence is derived from beautiful valleys, mountains, small towns. I write and share this fantasy through my imagination, if not, I would write about tall buildings, smoke, hard roads, suburbs, which is beautiful too, but what a loss it would be to lose fairies, to lose beautiful rainforests and savannahs and oceans along with the stories and emotions that come from them.
Who has had an influential impact towards your passion with nature and music? And what do you look for when collaborating musically with someone?
My whole life I’ve moved around. I was born in Sydney in the hills where I go back to often and find peace. I moved to India and lived in a village on a farm when I was pretty young and over to Perth when I was 9. I’ve been back and forth and further around the world ever since and I see these movements as a constant reminder as to who I am and where I’ve been. I have this image in my mind that really makes me feel connected to everything I do and it’s my current self looking back to when I was a child in India sitting on a small hill next to a tree watching the sunset over the vast horizon. As much as I love travelling and exploring and thinking back to my past, I have a huge appreciation for my present. I think my main influences for anything I create are my current emotions, the current story, what happened to me today and how it made me feel. I have a lot of artist friends, and a lot of friends who aren’t artists too, and it’s hard for me to name names because if I tried I’d be here forever, but they all inspire me immensely with the styles of work they create; such as contemporary art, photography, music of all styles and genres and emotions, and to more niche art forms like projection art or building instruments, to sciences and teaching and sharing knowledge and experiences. I have a huge love for the people that surround me every day and I find them absolutely incredible to observe. I learn everything I know from them, and everything I create is inspired by this constant emotional connection to those I meet.
Playing music, I think it’s something completely different. I get inspiration from anything and anyone, but playing music together is something so precious to me. It’s such a deep connection sharing yourself and your story. But it’s more than words. Sometimes you don’t even need to say anything to say exactly who you are and how you feel, and to share with someone I think is allowing for yourself to be really vulnerable. I mean, I’ve jammed with a lot of people but there’s a certain click you get with some people. They just get you, and who you are, from the first chord you just know you can be yourself and they’ll just let you do that. This is what I look for in music, a connection to one other that is honest and real and more than just words or music. It’s intertwining our emotions. From there it can only move further – to become comfortable in that space, to take risks and support each other, to guess where the other is going and to sometimes fail and create moments that feel incomprehensibly beautiful and real.
There was a documentary that appeared on the History Channel called ‘Life After People’ based on the concept that if humans were to no longer inhabit the Earth the elements of Nature would take over and replenish what it has lost. Do you believe in the concept of the non-existence of humanity?
The imagery it gives me is really quite serene. I wouldn’t mind being the last person to be alive…If I live long enough to see the earth take over! But I think looking out into the stars then back into my mind and realising what this could mean, in the vastness of the universe and the cosmos… it’s like saying if one ant died what would happen? Well, I guess I’m sad that it passed and it was probably a nice little ant that had a history and story but the whole world will keep moving and growing around it and the ant will grow back into the world. We’re just so insignificant compared to everything in existence and I think without us, things would just move onward quite peacefully as it is and as it would. I think I would have been a little more attached to this existence a few years ago, but now I’m much more content with the knowledge of my smallness and being so powerless in comparison to nature, and it kind of feeds the whole idea of my love for exploration. Because I want to push my body and my mind and see where it takes me.
While we are really insignificant, we are also capable of so much, and posing this idea really just inspires me to make my moments count. Whenever I think of leaving this existence, I am at peace with it, but it also drives me to get up, discover, learn and make this a better place for those, human or not, who come next before my time to be at rest. Talking about death in itself has so much power. I mean it’s so stigmatised. Just speaking about it here feels a little uncomfortable, you know? I wonder if you think I’m crazy or something with how I explore death and existence but speaking about it is great. Thinking about these things is really important for ourselves and our understanding of self and of our existence of where we’re going, what we’re doing and why we are doing it. So I guess either way it doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things, but that idea really inspires action to make each of our tiny moments count to us, in the context of our human time rather than universe time of billions of years.
Not only are you an acoustic musician, but as well a talented photographer. Your photographic works thrive in capturing the environment in its state of tranquillity, while your music guides your listeners through coos into the openness and wonder of Nature. And through that journey what is your purpose in displaying such naturesque imagery and influence?
I’ve always used photography as a tool to capture my memories, the places I’ve been, the moments I’ve seen and to be able to move on and forget, then come back to them later for my mind to connect to those feelings, which I would have lost without some kind of prompt. Sometimes these experiences are so beautiful, mixed with music, photographs and thoughts I just sit there for hours listening or reading or watching my past and those who were a part of it. It’s the nostalgia we learn so much from. Music is my outpour of these memories and emotions, such strong moments in time lasting for years, calls for a space for expressing how I feel about them now; whether I’ve moved on, learnt from those experiences or still hold onto them. Often my songs are such a huge mix of old and new feelings they would make almost no sense to you if I really told you who and what each line was about. Sometimes every word has a different person or memory attached to it. But I think that’s the beauty of music and art, to have interpretations that lead to wherever the listener or viewer wants it to lead. Everyone is going through their own journey of this world and life day to day, things are so fickle and reality is not at all lucid. To be able to share my memories, my stories, my feelings with others, I just find it so valuable. To be in a room and for me to tell a story that we can all live through for those few minutes and just get lost in time.
I guess I don’t really have a purpose but if I was to say what I do and what I’d like to do, it would be to share these experiences, to talk about them, to feel them and feel moved and let emotion flow between myself and others.
Terence McKenna states that “Nature is not our enemy, to be raped and conquered. Nature is ourselves, to be cherished and explored”. What is the reason that you are so in touch with Nature? Is it because you’re trying to find a connection with yourself?
So often we split nature and human, what we make with manmade and natural. and how we act with animal and human. I just see us as being a part of this world of nature, this community of the universe. Every decision we make, such small things like my voice speaking or my hands moving slightly or breathing, twitching, creating, feeling… it all connects to everything else through chains of constant energy flowing from one to another. It’s so easy to see ourselves in everything when we realise what we truly are. It’s not an exaggeration or an imaginary concept. It is really flowing and moving when we understand some fundamentals about the universe; whether through music, art, science, spirituality or whatever means that may be, we can find these connections and have more empathy for those that live and feel differently. I see parts of myself in others and in everything I interact with. This ties in with what I said about leaving and finding parts of memories everywhere I go. I think I am trying to figure out who I am, but every time I consciously do, or might think I have figured it out, I’m almost certain that’s the moment I need to leave those thoughts behind, that beubg behind and realise something new to remind myself that nothing is stagnant, everything is changing and I have absolutely no idea who I really am. But that’s okay, that’s fine, that’s wonderful. I don’t need to know who I am, and that’s what this earth gives me – a peace in the uncertainty and a love, almost passion, for spontaneity.
Ru will be performing with friends for Fringe called Cercle from January 31st – February 4th. You can buy your tickets here
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