Shillong Chamber Choir
Shillong Chamber Choir

Shillong Chamber Choir recollects its journey in the musical industry

As the choir gets ready with its upcoming creations, including the one for Boman Irani’s directorial, we chat with them about their inspiring journey.

Shillong Chamber Choir, which shot to fame with the win at India’s Got Talent in 2010, has grown even stronger and steadier since the demise of their mentor-founder Neil Nongkynrih in 2022. Despite the grief, they recorded songs for Zoya Akhtar’s latest release, The Archies, and continued to carry on his legacy. As the 11-member choir, comprising William Richmond Basaiawmoit, Banlam Hame Lyndem, Donna Volanty Marthong, Jessica Shaw Lyngdoh, Patricia Lyngdoh, Dorea Wasuk Rangad, Ibarisha Lyngdoh, Sandon Melam Lyndem, Rishila Merang Jamir, Riewbankit Lyndem and Keviseno Terhuja, gets ready with its upcoming creations, including the one for Boman Irani’s directorial, we chat with them about their inspiring journey. Excerpts:

Q

How has it been since winning the title of India’s Got Talent (IGT) ?

A

Donna: Home was always bustling with children around and the little homeschool back then. For me, it was juggling between the kitchen, the market, and helping Uncle Neil tutor Iba and a few other children at the homeschool.

It was a struggle, often financially, but we stuck to it, and each of us was wholehearted. Those were beautiful days, now that I look back. We didn’t have much, but we were happy.

Then God gave an opportunity in the form of IGT. After winning the competition, opportunities came to us. We are now sought after as a band, and I thank God for that because we are now able to support that little homeschool, which is now blossoming into a little school. My inclination towards the kitchen has always remained though. I don’t claim to be a great cook but that is where I can easily get lost into another world and be happy.

Ibarisha: Winning IGT has played a major role in our lives. Initially, we were a bunch of people who were interested in singing, but mostly as a hobby. But things changed over time as the news spread about our existence in Shillong. We started getting shows, and IGT came along the way. After the win, we were called to perform at several prestigious shows , and our lives got busier. It did change many things for the choir, both nationally and internationally. But we made sure that we remained a mystery to the larger public and did not forget our roots.

Q

How difficult has your journey been since Neil Nongkynrih’s death?

A

Rishila: By God’s grace, we are still moving forward organically. There’s no denying that as a choir, we’ve encountered our share of hurdles along the way, especially after the death of Neil, but we’ve been together for so many years through thick and thin, and that’s where we found strength!

Jessica: For the first few months, it took time and space for us to realise the magnitude and impact his methods and teachings have had on each of us and to be able to carry us far beyond what we’d ever thought at the time. I recall our first big project, without Uncle Neil, being Zoya Akhtar’s The Archies, for which we had to compose the background music with vocals, and that, I’d say, was what gave us a nudge towards taking braver steps.

Q

What’s music for you?

A

Patricia: Music is a very powerful tool — it is the language of the heart.

Q

How has music inspired you?

A

Ibarisha: Music has been part of me since childhood. I would recall my mom narrating stories during my younger days, and whenever I started singing, I seemed to get transported to a dreamland. After meeting Uncle Neil, I was heavily influenced by classical music, which also played a key role in my life as a musician.

Q

What’s your favourite album/project to date?

A

Riewbankit: Working on Boman Irani’s upcoming movie is one of my favourite projects because it’s the first single that we’ve done so far after our mentor’s demise. Boman gave us the space and freedom to express ourselves.

Q

How has the music scene evolved in the Northeast?

A

Sandon: When we started, there were very few platforms for musicians. But now the scene has changed. Smaller yet effective platforms for independent artistes have come up and I hope the government will continue to provide the space for multiple talents that are just overflowing in the North-Eastern states.

Q

What’s the presence of Northeast musicians like on the Indian music scene?

A

Dorea: A guitar is present in almost every household in Shillong, which only echoes how much we love music, and this love has a rippling effect on the rest of India too. From rock to blues to regional music, you name the genre, the North East has it all to some extent. With the emergence of social media, the younger generation has a great opportunity to showcase its talent. There have been quite a few independent artistes from Northeast who’ve contributed to the Indian music scene majorly.

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