PETALING JAYA: Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta has turned snubs into success by winning two major awards at a music festival in the US last weekend.
She was voted Female Vocalist of the Year and Virtual Entertainer of the Year after participating via a pre-recorded show at the Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards in Jefferson.
The government had earlier refused Lyia and her guitarist husband, Zack, financial support to perform and promote Malaysian tourism at the US event.
Lyia said: “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.
“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.”
Lyia and Zack were invited by 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.
Their hopes were dashed when the ministry of tourism, arts and culture cited “no funds” for the purpose while the Melaka government did not respond to assistance sought by the Portuguese Settlement-born Lyia.
Following an FMT report that a community in Jefferson had rallied to her aid, the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) offered help.
However, the Cendana offer was not sufficient to meet the RM60,000 needed for Lyia and Zack to make the 10-day US trip.
“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.
Lyia said East Texas Performing Arts Inc vice-president, Preston Taylor, insisted that she take part via a pre-recorded show.
The recording was done at the eleventh hour with the support of Big A Productions, she said, adding the Virtual Entertainer of the Year award was based on her performance.
She 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.
“Some people from Jefferson contacted me during the live show, offering kind words and wishing for me to be there next year,” said Lyia.
Lyia has over the years expanded her repertoire to include multiple genres, including jazz, blues, reggae, country, rock and metal.
Since the release of her first EP, “This is Lyia” in 2016, she has since won, or has been nominated for, international prizes including the Josie Music Awards for independent artistes in Tennessee and the International Music Video Awards in the UK.
Her songs have been played on radio stations in the UK, US and Australia.