PETALING JAYA: Singer Lyia Meta grabbed two big country music awards in Texas on Sunday, pulling off a brilliant Malaysian triumph in a markedly American genre.
Honour one was for female vocalist of the year, for the second year running, at the Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards in Marshall.
Honour two was for performance of the year, an award that surprised even her.
Lyia’s success in a highly competitive international field came amidst her struggle to gain recognition in her own country. She let out a big “whoop” after being named as one of country music’s most exciting voices.
Asked about her performance award, she replied: “I was told the judges ‘didn’t know where that came from’… I wasn’t what they expected in terms of energetic performance.”
She was also among contestants from 15 countries who received a US congressional certificate of “superlative achievement” for their contribution to the arts.
“Thank you, Texas, for giving me this moment,” Lyia said. “It took me forever to get here, and although I know I have a long way to go, it is always nice knowing I am appreciated.”
She added that this achievement was a great opportunity to bridge a gap between two cultures, as well as “a learning experience” for her.
On Sunday, she beat a strong field of professional performers to reinforce her reputation as a multi-talented artiste whose works span several music genres.
Festival organisers described her achievement as an “awesome triumph for Malaysia in country music”, given the all-American history of the genre.
Backed by the Texas Sounds International Country Music Band that featured her husband Zack on rhythm guitar, she sang two of her own hits and two cover tracks.
The singer-songwriter’s accomplishment is ironic, given that she has brought pride to her home country that has failed her.
Despite topping charts abroad, her songs do not receive airplay in Malaysia, while the government appears disinterested in her international feats.
Lyia did not make the Texas showcase last year due to lack of money and the refusal of the tourism, arts and culture ministry to support her financially to perform and promote Malaysia there.
She was, however, voted female vocalist and virtual entertainer of the year after participating via a pre-recorded show.
Her trip to the US this time around was made possible through the sale of her canvas art pieces, as well as the generosity of well-wishers here and from Texas.
There might yet be more to come from Lyia – she has been nominated for EP and vocalist of the year (multi-genre) in the Josie Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee, to be held on Oct 23.
The event is regarded as the largest all-genre independent music award show, and nominees get to walk the red carpet at the Grand Ole Opry House, where the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and other country greats have performed.
She is also a contestant at the Sarah Vaughn international jazz vocal competition in New Jersey next month, after which she will perform at the International Independent Music Festival India in Kovalam, Trivandrum.
Malaysians will get to see her at the return of the Miri Country Music Festival on Nov 25-26.