Shillong Chamber Choir eyes album, music school
"The win came as a surprise to us. We did not even expect to enter the quarterfinals but then it worked out. Now the first thing we will do is cut an album because that is what we have been wanting to do," Donna, one of the group's members, told us on the phone from Mumbai.
The group won the hearts of millions of Indians with their prowess of blending Bollywood music, Khasi folk songs and English songs in a Choir format.
The group won the title after defeating Teji Toko, a drummer from Arunachal Pradesh who came second and Bir Khalsa, a Sikh martial arts group from Punjab that came third. It received Rs.5 million in prize money and a Kawasaki 250cc Ninja bike. The finale consisted of nine acts.
The prize money is going to be utilised in an appropriate fashion.
"The boys will probably take the bike to the college. As for the money, we have a school in a home in Shillong and we want to build an institution there and harness the talent in the region and give them a professional training ground.
"There is no one in Shillong who doesn't play an instrument and this platform is going to be for those who need it and want to study music. We hardly have any music institutes in India," said Donna.
Talking about their music, she said: "It was a new approach to Bollywood music and the people liked it. We found out that Bollywood music was really great when we came for the show. However, choosing the songs was quite pressurising.
"We did not want to do anything disrespectful or anything that would hamper our singing. For that matter, even the little dancing was only an addition to our act and nothing at all."
The show, which aired on Colors channel for about three months, was judged by actresses Kirron Kher and Sonali Bendre and director Sajid Khan.
Having experimented with Bollywood songs for the first time, the Shillong Chamber Choir has now taken a liking to Hindi film music.
"We'd like to play around a bit more with Bollywood music. It is very catchy and we find it simply involving. We'd like to do it for our first album too, especially the classic songs, because people like them and there is a connect," added Donna.
We'd certainly pick some of the songs we sang for our performances in the show as well as others like 'Yaadon ki baarat', 'Saiyan dil mein aana re' and even 'Yeh dosti'... the oldies really live on," she added.
They will, however, not restrict their music to any language.
"We are a choir and we'd like to more than just music from Shillong. We don't want to get confined to only Khasi or any other language. We sing French, German, Latin - everything. There is a song we sing in the Naga dialect, and then there is one in the Assamese dialect. We love Mozart so there will definitely be a lot of German," she said.
Mentored by its pianist Neil Nongkynrih, the group was formed in 2001. Comprising mostly college students, the singers are Ibarisha, Jessica, Patricia Doren Kevi, Sandon, Damon, Riewbankit, Johanan, Kynsai, Ryan, Banlam and Donna.
The Shillong Chamber Choir has also to its credit India's first gold medal at the World Choir Olympics held in July in China.
"Life's certainly changed more with the fact that we are known as a group. We will just like to lie low a bit and take things a little slow and step by step. After all, god helps those who help themselves," said Donna.
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