Interview With Rising Chin vocalist and composer Cung Lian Thawng
03 October 2009 [CG Note: Well received and highly rated as one of the rising Chin musicians, Cung Lian Thawng, aka Thawngbawi, not only sings but also composes songs and plays musical instruments including violin, guitar, drum, organ and harmonica. As one of the four Chin singers invited to perform at Chin Live Aid gigs in Europe, Thawngbawi excited his fans and audiences during a month-long tour in Denmark, Norway and Germany.
Having performed at ‘Chin Famine Live Aid Concerts’ in Australia earlier this year, Thawngbawi took another voluntary step away from his newly born baby girl, Cung Hlawn Par and wife, Van Thla Cer Hniang, in support of raising awareness and fund for mautam-hit Chin victims. Based in Hakha, the capital of Burma’s Chin State, Thawngbawi runs a recording studio.]
Chinland Guaridan: How was the tour to Denmark, Norway and Germany going?
Cung Lian Thawng: I felt it was going much better than I expected.
Chinland Guardian: What were the most difficult and enjoyable times, you thought, during the trip?
Cung Lian Thawng: Well, I found it quite difficult in adjusting myself to the time difference in Europe. The eating time and habit was affected and sometimes it made my stomach upset. But it was getting alright for me after a while. I felt so happy when I met our Chin fellows in Europe, which I have never expected. In addition, I have got some new ideas out of this trip in regards to what we can do together in the future.
Chinland Guardian: Do you think the Chin people in Europe enjoyed the concerts?
Cung Lian Thawng: Yea, they really enjoyed the concerts but those who were responsible for organising the concerts got pretty tired.
Chinland Guardian: We are proud that you could participate in this programme to raise awareness and fund for Chin victims of food crisis. What actually made you decide to come all the way long to Europe?
Cung Lian Thawng: It has been a great honour to be invited for this programme. Singing like this is the only thing I can do to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering from mautam-related hunger in Chin State and I am really happy to do so. Once I had got the invitation, I started selecting and practicing the songs at my studio.
Chinland Guardian: Tell us more about yourself in music and singing as well as composing.
Cung Lian Thawng: My father said I started crooning some songs at the age of 5, which I could hardly remember. When I became about 8 and 9 of age, my father realized my interest in singing was driving me crazy and he let me take some lessons on piano from Pu Tha Uk. After passing10th Standard in 2000, I went to Malaysia. And in 2002 while working in Malaysia, I voluntarily played the keyboard during the church services of Chin Christian Fellowship as there was no one else to take care of the music at church. It sort of became a responsibility, which actually made me take more serious yet careful actions on writing songs, learning and playing music more so the congregation could enjoy the services more enthusiastically and meaningfully.
When I came back to Hakha in 2003 from Malaysia, I continued writing songs and playing music. It was to my big surprise that I was invited to sing for an album called ‘Ka Tlei Kho Lo’ produced by CACC (Chin Association for Christian Communication). It was from this album that I became better known to the public and could move on till today. It has always been my ambition to make a contribution towards improving and promoting Chin music, literature and songs as much as I can do.
Chinland Guardian: And any other training and work?
Cung Lian Thawng: In Rangoon, I took some lessons on how to play violin, piano and on singing for nearly a year. Sometimes, I went to a solfa training given by G. Biak Nawl. I am quite confident on what we call ‘1-2-3’ notes and I need to make a lot of improvements on staff, which I can write a bit but hardly play. In terms of work, I cannot remember how many songs I have composed but it should be at least more than 70 by now. I have been involved in a total of 30 albums on CDs, VCDs, and DVDs.
Chinland Guardian: Any differences between the concerts in Europe and others you have performed in the past?
Cung Lian Thawng: Of course, it was somehow different. Obviously, the purpose makes a dividing line and this time, we came to Europe for our brothers and sisters suffering in mautam-hit areas of Chinland. At each concert, we received this kind of warm supports from the audience and it was amazing. The people sang along, danced at their conveniences and enjoyed themselves freely, and that was actually the nature of live gigs. It was meaningful and at the same time very enjoyable.
Chinland Guardian: Any messages to your fans and Chin fellows in Europe.
Cung Lian Thawng: My heartfelt thanks to you all for your warm receptions and excellent services we had been given during our stays in each country. In particular, I am so grateful to all of you for looking after us perfectly, for taking us on sightseeing tours in the cities, for your generous presents, for your kind invitation to dinner, for preparing for us and letting us taste some Danish, Norwegian and German dishes and beverages, and for everything that you had done for us. And also to the Chin communities and churches for your concerns and prayers. Here in this interview, I would like to express my thanks to two members of Chin music band based in Stavanger called ‘God’s Shadow’, Pa Siang and Tun Tun, for their presents of lead and bass guitars in hope of producing better quality of music at my studio.