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Music: Meet the next gen Khasi singer

Lily Adoryllene Sawian was nine years old when she watched Tipriti Kharbangar of blues rock band Soulmate perform live for the first time at a local music festival in Shillong. That’s when she knew she wanted to sing on stage.

So, when the now 25-year-old Lily woke up to see that Tipriti had shared a clip of Lily’s song, hailing her the ‘next generation Khasi singer’, it was a dream come true.

“I was speechless! I want to be like her, not just vocally but even her stage presence,” says the Masters in Planned Molecular Biology student, explaining that she’s met her idol through Ruby, Tipriti’s brother and guitarist, who Lily’s worked with.

Lily (above) credits her beauty pageantry days for giving her the confidence to get on stage and carry herself, which has spilled over to her music as well

Keep the faith

She’s not a full-time musician yet, but that’s the goal, Lily says. First, she must prove to her parents that she can sustain herself financially via music. Growing up in a household where her father, a singer who chose a career as a doctor because it pays the bills, still takes the time to hum Biblical hymns and folk songs to her, the influence of her faith and relationship with God is visible in her songs.   

Most of her originals, which she started recording in 2013 after she met the founders of W-50 Records, a music and film production company, and bought a mic using her scholarship money, have one common theme—to encourage listeners to believe in themselves. Bless talks about why it’s important to ride the storm, the ups and downs, while working hard on ourselves. It has a line, ‘I’ve got my immortal/ I’m stronger than ever’. “Which means I can always trust the immortal—God. We don’t always trust that God is there for us, but he is! There’s a turning point in everyone’s life. Mine was when I was 13 and was going through personal issues. It’s through prayer and love that I am where I am today,” she says. Her Khasi songs, too, talk about hope, and one is dedicated to the city of Shillong.

Like all millennials, Lily feels social media is crucial to push her content to a wider range of people, besides allowing fans to get to know her and reach out to her. She’s just four years old on Instagram, making her debut only after her parents allowed her to! She replies to all her DMs and uses the platform to promote local businesses owned by friends who were forced to explore their ‘hidden talents’ during the lockdown.

“I think more than being famous, I care about who’s appreciating my art, which the number of followers doesn’t really show. Of course, it would be nice if my music went viral, but my idea of fame is still old-school,” Lily smiles. They have internet woes, though. “Most homes don’t have Wi-Fi and depend on network providers via mobile phones,” she sighs.

Most of Lily’s original songs, which she started recording in 2013, have one common theme—to encourage listeners to believe in themselves
Most of Lily’s original songs, which she started recording in 2013, have one common theme—to encourage listeners to believe in themselves

That pageant life

Ask her about her sense of style and she credits her mother, and the years since 2013 that Lily spent participating in beauty pageants across the Northeast. “I was scared. Because I had this notion that to be beautiful you have to be fair, and I’m pretty dark-skinned! But my mom wouldn’t let me give up!” she laughs. She then went on to win or at least come in the top three at several pageants, being crowned ‘Miss Talented’ in Miss Meghalaya in 2019.

“Pageantry moulded me. I gained the confidence to get on stage and carry myself, which has spilled over to my music,” she says.

Those years also gave her an insight into the world, when the standards of beauty changed with the current generation. “Earlier, people would be uptight. But today, I think individuality has become a part of beauty—we are all beautiful and exotic in our own way,” she says. She still gets racist comments on her videos, though. “‘She looks like a n**ro’ is common on YouTube. But I’ve grown a thick skin, living with my mum. She’s my biggest critic and uses tough love. Which works,” Lily giggles, unfazed.

Up next, she’ll be trying to convince her parents to let her do music full time! “It doesn’t pay much here,” she says. But you have to start somewhere, and she’s had a strong start. One thing’s for sure: she won’t be shifting base from Shillong. “I have the wings to freedom as well as responsibility. It’s important to remember where you come from and go back there,” she smiles.

Follow @kkuenzang on Twitter and Instagram

From HT Brunch, October 3, 2021

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