Nothing affects Iraj | Sunday Observer

Nothing affects Iraj

30 August, 2020

Hate him or love him, Iraj Weeraratne over the years has garnered sensationalism with his music and his work, post music.

In the 2000s fans remember him for having revolutionized music and being way ahead of his time.

Today, his songs and videos receive mixed reviews, while some say he is demoralizing the music scene, others prefer his content which is in keeping with international standards.

The Lankan rapper will be seen collaborating with many billboard artists, including Sean Kingston, R.I.O and Grammy award-winning rap crew Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

Iraj talks about his new appointment as a Director for Youth Services, youth, music and facing up to negative criticism.

Q: How does it feel to be appointed as a Director of the National Youth Services Council?

A: I appreciate the opportunity to serve the country. My role primarily entails developing, promoting and creating easy access to Digital and Social Media for the rural youth. My forte, apart from Music, has been Digital and Social Media. Hence, I am grateful to be allowed to share my experiences and knowledge in Digital and Social Media with the Youth of Sri Lanka.

I firmly believe if we encourage our Youth to engage more with Digital and Social Media, we can create a network of young digital entrepreneurs. Today, if a young person has access to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube they can generate an income working from their own homes.

Small business owners and young entrepreneurs can sell their goods and services via Facebook and Instagram. They can reach their target audience and potential customers quite easily utilizing social media as their primary tool.

Post Covid19, more consumers will be purchasing goods online. Recently, Instagram even launched a new button ‘Order Food’ which when clicked on directs the individual to a connected food delivery partner platform. That’s how easy it is today to sell/order a product on Instagram! Facebook and Instagram both have multiple ‘Call to Action’ features available for small businesses; e.g. ‘Shop Now’.

Furthermore, if an individual is taught how to use YouTube properly, he or she can earn a monthly revenue in dollars (USD) by working from their own homes. This is also foreign revenue coming in to the country. An individual can quite easily be trained to become a successful YouTuber and a significant monthly pay can be earned by being a successful YouTuber.

Q: What are you hoping to do different from what has been done before?

A: I would like to create a better digital ecosystem among the youth, especially the rural youth. Help them gain better access to digital platforms. Educate them on how to better utilize digital and social media for their benefit and teach them how to monetize it.

I’m also keen to spearhead a national campaign that creates awareness on cyber-bullying and its impact. Young people are often the perpetrators and the victims of cyber-bullying and many participate without knowing the real consequences and how it affects the victim’s life. Young people also need to be educated on their digital footprint which they often unintentionally create which can have long term consequences.

Q: Youth are facing a lot of issues in the country, how will you and the rest of the Directors address these issues?

A: I would be interested to primarily focus on two or three key issues during my tenure as a Director and my strategy would be to focus and address one issue at a time. The first being, youth unemployment. In my opinion, an important strategy that can be utilized for youth employment would be to facilitate and encourage youth entrepreneurship.

Providing entrepreneurship training for youth can lead to significant growth in business creation and innovation. Encouraging start-ups by creating the right training facilities, the right mentorship programs, creating avenues for the youth to network and introducing various start-up business loan facilities can create the overall environment and ecosystem that is required to encourage youth entrepreneurship.

Sri Lanka has immense talent we just need to empower our youth and help them find their calling. Two other issues that I am keen to address are ragging at universities and suicides.

Youth approximately account for a quarter of our population – 4.4m. That is 4.4m potential local change-makers and global game-changers. Hence, I firmly believe if we empower our youth, help them grow and encourage them to break the existing ‘mould’ and help them discover new avenues, we will see a shift in society and the economy.

Youth empowerment has proven to reduce the rate of poverty, rate of suicide, rate of depression, etc. to a significant level. I firmly believe that if the youth are equipped with essential skills, they can utilize these skills to change their lives, assist and impact the lives of others, and even invest for their future use, thereby aiding the country economically too.

Q: The current local entertainment industry is facing a lot of criticism for the lack of creativity and originality, your comments?

A: I don’t think we lack creativity and originality! There are so many young talented musicians in the country today and again we just need to educate them on the multiple platforms that are available to them at their fingertips!

Earlier, we needed TV and Radio channels to promote our music and as artistes, we were wholly dependent on them. To a point where certain media organizations use to demand money from the artists to play their music on their channels. That system was broken years ago, thanks to platforms like YouTube. Today, an artiste can own and manage their own channel on YouTube and monetize their own content.

We need to teach our young talented artistes how to use these digital media platforms so that they can reach their target audience by managing their own channels and monetize their own content.

Q: Youth are looking for other ventures out of the country, how will you make them look for ventures here?

A: Youth don’t need to go overseas if the right ecosystem is created for them in Sri Lanka. We have many opportunities in Sri Lanka; we just need to be ambitious and be prepared to take a few risks. The youth need to be made aware of the various opportunities available in Sri Lanka. Opportunities available in the digital space, business opportunities that can be created utilizing social media as a primary tool, etc.

I am quite keen to see PayPal being allowed in Sri Lanka. At present, Sri Lanka only allows a user to send money via PayPal but not receive and withdraw. This has to change. If we are to encourage SME’s to trade online, young professionals to offer their services online, e.g. Graphic Designers, Website Developers, Social Media Managers, etc. we need to allow full access to PayPal.

Products designed, created and made in Sri Lanka can easily be traded online via platforms such as eBay if the full services of PayPal are allowed in the island. These are all opportunities the Youth can be directed towards if we create the right ecosystem.

Q: You and Tehani received a lot of negativity, your comment?

A: In Sri Lanka, if you are seen as being more supportive of one political party over another, or if you keep voicing your opinion loudly, you will always receive negativity and backlash from those that don’t agree with your opinion, or from those who don’t want to see your voice getting louder! Being public figures, Tehani and I are both well accustomed to negative comments that hail primarily from keyboard warriors. Even the most successful international public personalities constantly receive negative comments from those that don’t agree with their work, their ideas and opinions, etc.

We live in a democratic country and society; hence everyone is entitled to voice their opinion. This does not affect my life and journey, and I believe the same can be said of Tehani as well.

Tehani is a popular young singer, a brave young woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. I’m sure in due course her actions will speak louder than her words and all those who criticized her will have to swallow the insults they unfairly levelled at her.