Proud to perform before Obama: Shillong Chamber Choir


New Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) Performing at the presidential state banquet before US President Barack Obama and Michelle was "awesome" and "indeed a proud moment", say members of the Shillong Chamber Choir.

The 16-member troupe sang three numbers - a piece from a Khasi opera, American song "My tribute" and a medley of Hindi songs that ended with "Ye dosti hum nahin todenge" - the evergreen number from "Sholay" Monday evening.

"The event was just awesome and fabulous. It was a proud moment to sing for President Obama, and we are glad we could sing in our native language - Khasi," Damon Lyndem, bass singer of the choir, told IANS.

The Meghalaya-based choir enthralled the around 100 select guests at the banquet hosted by President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Their item lasted around eight minutes, and the choir members wish "we had more time to perform".

The male members of the choir wore black suits with golden ties and waistcoats, while the women flaunted white-coloured dhara, a traditional Khasi dress, teamed with red stoles. The traditional Indian touch was added by their conductor and mentor Neil Nongkynrih, who wore a maroon sherwani.

"We are glad we were able to represent universality through our songs and dress. Just like we sang three songs in Khasi, our native language, an American song and a Hindi song, we dressed also in such a way that we can represent what we believe in - unity in diversity," said Lyndem.

The group was a bundle of nerves in the afternoon before the performance in the evening. However, everything went off smoothly.

"We were all nervous because when we went for the dress rehearsal, the set up wasn't ready, the lights weren't there, the piano wasn't tuned... but when we came to perform, everything looked beautiful. The decor was lovely and elegant, the piano was in tune... and we were confident," said Lyndem.

The choir won India's first gold medal at the World Choir Olympics held in July in China and came into the limelight after winning the Colors' talent hunt show "India's Got Talent 2" (IGT).

The choir members have only one regret - they couldn't meet the high-profile guests personally. But never mind, says Nongkynrih.

"It was a very formal affair. Even if President Obama wouldn't have been present, it would still have been extremely formal. So there was no question of doing anything out of the protocol or beyond what was rehearsed," said Nongkynrih.

Now the choir is on the seventh heaven and receiving congratulatory calls galore. But the mentor says it isn't right for the choir to perform too frequently.

"I don't want my kids to be exploited. A lot of them still have their education to complete. In fact the youngest is only 15 years old. I don't want to launch them into hectic schedules that robs them of their youth. "

Some choir members are students, one is a lecturer, some teach at the music school, Home School. The oldest member is 29 years.