Interview With Talented Sweet-Voiced Chin Singer Dawt Hlei Hniang
[03 October 2009, CG Note: Being renowned for her sweet voice since her childhood, Dawt Hlei Hniang, aka Hniang Hniang, once again took a voluntary action for a month-long concert tour in Europe to raise awareness and fund for Chin victims of mautam food crisis.
Born in Falam and raised in Hakha, the 27-year-old of Tlangpi village sings not only in Chin but also in Burmese, winning the first prizes of the nationwide singing competition called ‘su-kah-yee-tee’ while in High School. With one of Burma’s greatest vocalists and composers Htoo Ein Thin, Hniang Hniang recorded a much-expected album but it is not released till today as he passed away in 2004 before the recording was completed.
In this interview conducted on a Frankfurt-Nuremberg German train in July 2009 just after a series of concerts in Denmark, Norway and Germany, Dawt Hlei Hniang talked to Van Biak Thang of Chinland Guardian about the Europe trip …]
Chinland Guardian: How did the concerts in Europe go?
Hniang Hniang: Very successful. Actually, much better than expected. I got so proud of the Chin people in Europe, who worked so hard for the concerts to be meaningful and successful in addition to looking after us so well.
Chinland Guardian: During a month-long tour in Europe, what were the most difficult and happiest moments for you?
Hniang Hniang: The time difference between Burma and Europe affected us in terms of eating and sleeping. One of the most difficult moments was the time when we got so tired and had almost no more energy left to talk properly to some young lads, perhaps a bit tipsy, visiting us at late night after having a big concert. In other words, it was not that they were not welcome but that I felt uncomfortable with the fact that I couldn’t keep up the conversation well enough (giggles). One of the happiest moments was meeting with friends and relatives in Europe who I have not met for such a long time.
Chinland Guardian: Do you think the Chin people in Europe enjoyed the concerts?
Hniang Hniang: I did believe they enjoyed the shows as I enjoyed it so much, too. At the same time, I could clearly see that they supported the cause. Yea, quite a lot of people turned up. And I was told that some came from the neighbouring countries like Sweden and Netherlands.
Chinland Guardian: You were touring Europe to raise awareness and fund for Chin victims of mautam food crisis. What actually made you to have this decision as you must have been aware that the tour was going to take more than a month?
Hniang Hniang: While I was in Hakha, a member of Mautam Relief Aid Committee, who had just returned from his trip to the mautam-affected areas, told me a tragic story about a village widow who lost her only child while she was travelling on foot to the India-Burma border to fetch a bag of rice stored at a point by cross-border aid agencies. She had walked for about 4-5 days on foot and got so tired that she couldn’t make to her village but died on the way while carrying some rice for her little child in the village. The story touched and moved me so much that no sooner had I got the request for the Europe tour than I made my decision to do whatever I could to help my people who are suffering from this food crisis.
Chinland Guardian: Tell us more about yourself. When did you start singing and first get involved in music?
Hniang Hniang: I still remember my mother telling me that I started singing when I began talking (laughter). I started singing on stage at the age of 2. My first album – Christian songs – was released while I was 12.
Chinland Guardian: What would be the differences between this concert and others that you have taken part?
Hniang Hniang: Yea, this trip sure was different from other concerts. The concerts in Europe were for those who are hungry and suffering from mautam food crisis. I praise to God for His blessings and giving me the opportunity to get involved in this programme with my voice and talent He has given me. I felt great and satisfied with what I was doing even when I got exhausted and when my performance did not go that well. Actually, we didn’t come here for just having fun but for making something that we can to help our brothers and sisters in the Chin jungle. So, during the concert in Europe, I had a very different feeling.
Chinland Guardian: What is next on your agenda in the near future?
Hniang Hniang: Nothing much really but I would love to continue getting involved in any programme to help our people who suffer from this mautam – its consequences, they said, will last at least 3 to 5 years. And if there is a chance, I would love to study at a music school.
Chinland Guardian: Any messages to your fans and Chin people in Europe.
Hniang Hniang: I am going to repeat what I normally say: If we can’t do something useful to our people, let’s try not to do something harmful to our people.