Vivek Virani’s research explores connections between music and spirituality in diverse religious and cultural traditions, with a particular focus on religious music's role in the constructions of community, nation, and self. His recent dissertation explores how songs of South Asian devotional poet-saints are used to negotiate issues of culture, religion, and society at the regional and national levels. He is currently drafting a book based on this work while pursuing further projects related to bhakti, Sufi, nirgun, and other forms of mystical poetry performance in South Asia. Vivek is also engaged in a theoretical project developing new analytical paradigms for North Indian tabla solo composition and improvisation.
The Society for Asian Music recognized Vivek with the Martin D. Hatch prize for the best student paper related to Asian Music presented at the 2015 meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology. Recently, Vivek has contributed a chapter on altered states of consciousness in classical tabla compositions to be published in the volume Music and Consciousness 2 by Oxford University Press, and a chapter on caste-discrimination reform through devotional singing to be published in the volume Songs of Social Protest.
Vivek is also a versatile performer. He regularly performs interfaith bhajan, kirtan, qawwali and other spiritual songs in a mix of traditional and contemporary styles. He has trained intensively in Hindustani classical tabla under world masters Pandit Suresh Talwalkar and Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri and is adept on many global percussion instruments. He has learned bansuri (bamboo flute) with Pandit Radha Prasad, khyāl vocal from Pandit Arun Dravid, and is currently training in Dhrupad vocal under Pandit Ramakant Gundecha. He recently contributed to the soundtrack of the Cannes festival-winning film The Cinema Travelers, in which he played 8 instruments in addition to providing vocals.