As a teenager, Zack Meta would sneak into night clubs to watch his favourite bands play. This was back in the 1970s when local bands were all the rage.
“I couldn’t afford to pay, so I would wait until two in the morning on a Saturday night and sneak in to catch a glimpse.
I remember seeing the Strollers with Terry Thaddeus. “Terry had the ‘X’ factor, the height, the looks. Nand Kumar too. These guys had talent and were always dressed to the nines,” Zack says.
Zack went on to become a guitarist and performed at local clubs, playing at house parties and backing other artistes. Today, he is half of the Zack and Lyia duo, who perform regularly at local pubs.
The duo are part of the stellar line-up slated to play at the Musicians for Musicians Benefit Concert 2020 on March 15 at the Mines International Exhibition Centre in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.
Zack is happy to relate tales from the past. “My friend Steve and I played at a pub called The Moon in Bangsar, in 1975,” he says. After an eight-month stint there, Zack was shipped off to India to get a “proper” education.
“My family wanted me out of the music scene so I was sent to Bangalore to study. Instead, I ended up playing at a beach hotel in Kovalam for close to a year. It was only a matter of time before I was brought home again.”
The former St John’s school boy says he first learnt how to play guitar when a relative taught him a few chords.
“In those days, it didn’t matter if you were Malay, Chinese or Indian – we were all in English medium schools, and listened to the same songs. It’s not like today where there is so much segregation,” he laments.
It was in the 1990s that Zack was joined by singer Lyia. Lyia Meta (nee Nunis) never actually wanted a career in music. Yet, today she’s an award-winning artiste.
“After graduating from high school, I got a job as a junior secretary at an engineering firm in Melaka.”
The lanky Eurasian is the daughter of the late brush artist Larry Nunis, and sister of singer Karen Nunis.
“I come from a family that is very musically inclined. My sister performs, my brother is a guitarist, and my late father sang in a band.
“I never really felt comfortable with that lifestyle. While I was growing up, there were always people walking in and out of our house. I wanted a different life.”
But Lyia’s mother persuaded her to give music a shot, in an audition that led to her teaming up with Zack.
“We worked as a duo for about a year before we got married. After that we continued performing, working in hotels all over Malaysia,” Lyia says, adding that they have a son.
Lyia began learning to play the guitar and this eventually led to writing songs. The internet let her collaborate with a lot of people worldwide.
In 2018, she released a single, “All of My Love”, written by award-winning British songwriter and record producer Paul Michael Curtis, who connected with her via social media.
Lyia’s 2016 album, “This is Lyia”, won World Artiste of the Year 2018; then she picked up Artiste of the Year (multi-genre) 2019 at The Josie Music Awards in Dollywood, Tennessee, the largest Indie Awards in the US.
Her song “Slumber” made it to The Recording Academy’s 2019 first ballot voting for the 62nd Grammy Awards.
Just a few weeks ago, “Slumber Remix” was featured on the For Your Consideration 1st Grammy Ballot compilation CD that was released by Bongo Boy Records..
“When I made it to the Grammy ballot, it was such a huge deal for me. It’s unheard of here in Malaysia, for an independent artiste like me,” Lyia reveals, adding however that these achievements feel bittersweet.
“I don’t expect people to applaud me, but I have also come to realise that you’re not really going to get a leg up in the local music industry, no matter how much you achieve.
“Nonetheless I believe very strongly in God. So I put in the effort and if it works, it works. I have a lot of faith.” Clearly, Lyia remains resolute in her quest to spread her music.
Zack says there’s no money in recording, and that the media is not interested in highlighting Lyia’s achievements. His pessimism comes, perhaps, from seeing live music’s popularity decline over the years.
“I need to put my footprints in the sand. Plus, we’re not just pub singers. We have something to bring to the table.
“My hope is that the local music scene will be more inclusive. We should all be given a chance at something better.”
Tickets for the concert are priced at RM100 and available at www.airasiaredtix.com. You can also call Edwin on 012 209 8849 or Raj on 019 229 7156.