As more Malaysians look overseas to make a name for themselves, the country is steadily losing its once-celebrated concept of true diversity and multiculturalism.
Malaysian singer and songwriter Lyia Meta has once again received two major awards at an international music festival in Texas, USA last weekend. It wasn’t her first time, either, as Lyia was previously chosen as the winner for World Music Artist of the Year at the 2018 Josie Music Awards in Tennessee.
Her participation at the Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards in Jefferson, Texas, came by invitation by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, in association with Texas Tech University, to promote Malaysia as an “attractive destination for American travellers” at two seminars during the music festival.
Unfortunately, Lyia and her guitarist husband Zack were denied financial support from the Malaysian government to perform and promote Malaysian tourism at the US event. The ministry of tourism, arts, and culture cited “no funds” were available for assistance, and the Melaka (where Lyia was born in a Portuguese settlement) government provided no response for her endeavor as well.
Upon hearing that Lyia was unsuccessful in receiving financial aid for her trip, the community in Jefferson rallied to raise money for her.
“The good people of Jefferson had raised about US$5,000 in cash and kind (rooms, meals, and incidental expenses), but sadly we couldn’t raise enough for the whole trip,” said Lyia.
When word got out about the initiative to get Meta stateside, the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) offered help too. Despite the best efforts, funds were still short of the RM60,000 needed for Lyia and Zack to make the 10-day US trip.
Insisting on Lyia being able to perform at the music festival, East Texas Performing Arts Inc vice-president, Preston Taylor, decided that she could still participate via a pre-recorded show. Through this act of kindness, Lyia was able to perform and was voted Female Vocalist of the Year, and Virtual Entertainer of the Year at the Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards.
“I am overjoyed with having won the two awards despite the challenges that I faced in trying to secure funds in these uncertain times to attend the event,” said Lyia.
“It acknowledges me as a live performer and artiste, and I am hopeful of a positive response from the government next year as the benefits to the nation in terms of promotion of culture and tourism are tremendous.”
Reported by FMT, Lyia performed five original country/blues releases written by Mike Jones from South Carolina and Atlanta’s Jerry Jake Howard, a cover of Emmylou Harris’s “You Never Can Tell” while Zack played an instrumental “Guitar Boogie” by Arthur Smith.
Festival organisers described Lyia’s achievement as a brilliant Malaysian triumph in country music, a distinctly American genre.
Watch Lyia’s performance here:
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