Flying the banner of music high: Sentirenla Lucia Panicker
“I don’t think I could exist without music,
I was meant to sing, and I pray to God I don’t lose my voice…”
As the Panicker family at Diphupar, Dimapur welcome The Morung Express to their household, their youngest daughter, Sentirenla Lucia Panicker opens up on her life as a performer at the United States, and shares memories on how her love affair with music started.
It was in 3rd grade, when Sentirenla Lucia Panicker realized that she could sing. But it was during her first real recording in a studio, for a Doordarshan jingle in 6th grade that solidified her inclusion to the music world. Born in Kohima, Lucia is the daughter of Bobby Panicker and Narola Nokden. She is the granddaughter of Padmashree awardee, late Nokdenlemba Ao.
Lucia has had more than her fair share of momentous achievements. It was while studying at the International College of Music in Malaysia, when representatives from Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America who were on tour recognized Lucia’s talent and offered her a student scholarship. She scored ‘A’ grade in Music at ‘Berklee College of Music’. She was then selected to perform at the Berklee 2010 Commencement Concert, where she performed the unforgettable song ‘Naima’, by the famous South African singer and producer, ‘Angelique Kidjo’, who herself was present at the concert. Lucia was also part of the group that performed for Governors’ Campaign in Boston, where President Barack Obama showed up.
“I’ve been doing music throughout,” is how Lucia explains her relationship with music. But she also reveals that her dad was adamant to her completing her graduation degree before she could embark on a serious journey with music. Her quest soon led her to finding a forte in singing Rhythm & Blues, Jazz and Soul. Performing for several years now, Lucia is also slowly carving a niche as a songwriter. Notable songs written by her are ‘Schizophrenic Woman’, ‘Breathe’ composed for her cousin brother Lai Ozukum’s band ‘Blend’, and ‘I can sing’.
Lucia lists Whitney Houston as her biggest musical inspiration and said that she was really sad when she heard the six-time Grammy winner’s death. “My family knew me for my Whitney Houston songs,” she says, showing how much she truly idolized the star.
And in fact, Lucia will be performing at Dimapur Ao Baptist Arogo (DABA) Sunday devotional service on March 4. She will be singing a Whitney Houston song as a tribute to her idol.
Currently, Lucia is part of three American bands. She is in ‘Project 51’ (a Neo Soul inspired fusion of Jazz, Pop, R&B, and Soul) who’s first EP is slated for release soon. She is also part of acapela group ‘Sung Deep’, and jazz group ‘Jazz Urbane’. She is also a private vocal instructor at Zumix in Boston, which recently received an award for best non profit NGO. Lucia is definitely very busy in the States with music to keep her occupied. But she relishes all the time spent for music. “I was not brought up thinking that music could be a career for me. I had to fight for it,” she explains. And with this she encourages musicians in Nagaland to make more effort and explore their talents. Musicians, she says, have to be unique and list ‘copying’ as the biggest mistake an artiste could make. She also felt that an ideal goal for singers should be to write their own songs.
Lucia is very close to her parents. And hence her most memorable performance counts as the one at Boston Scullers Jazz Club last year, where she dedicated her performance of “In your eyes” by Diane Reeves to her mom and dad. “A lot of musician never had help. My parents, I realized had support me a lot,” she said feeling blessed.
On if she has any plans to showcase and explore her musical talents in Nagaland Lucia candidly said: “I don’t want to repeat the same mistake others have made. I don’t want to come and not do something different.” She also cites that she intends to gain more experience before even thinking of coming to Nagaland and says, “I’m a performer first. I want to tour more”. However, if she does make the shift, Lucia would like to open a theater school, and also conduct lots of workshops and bring artiste from outside.
Her approach to music could be summed up through her advice to Naga musicians- “Go where your music takes you, that’s what I’m doing”. She also asks musicians not to limit themselves with music and to listen to all kinds of music, ‘so you can develop your own ears’. Equally proud of her Malayali heritage as much as being a Naga, Lucia says that she is amazed with Carnatic music. Naga musicians should not just focus on western music, she adds. I wish Nagas would also look towards music from mainland India, she adds wistfully. “Because of the talent, here I wish artistes would explore more genres of music,” she says.
With humor, Lucia also points out that bands from Nagaland still seem to be stuck in the 80s. With an almost straight face, Lucia says, “Its good to be old school, but an artiste should incorporate their identity in their music.” That’s the only complain I have she says on the local music scene. “Nagaland does not lack in musicians, but I wish singers here would concentrate a lot more on performing. Everyone can sing, but I want people not to be awkward on stage. That is something different I would want to see here,” she said.
Sharing insightful tips, Lucia says that Music is a language. And if you know how to play music, you should know how to read it. Also, any artist who wants to break it in the real world and be a performer should know the theory of music. She also said that Music is a business right now, so it is important for any smart artist to learn all the aspects of music. She also highlighted on the need for artist to copyright their work, and adds “every musician should have something to call their own.”
On State governments’ involvement with music, she suggests that instead of hosting concerts; she feels that more focus and money should be given for recitals, and workshops. Which should also be open to everyone, she adds. She also opined that there aren’t enough performance centers. Also she adds, “I would want to hear more music occasions other than the Hornbill Music Festival. “Why not have a week just dedicated to musicians,” she asked.
When she is not immersed in her music and its many projects, Lucia says she loves to do stuff with her hands. She laughs out loud and admits that she has been knitting stuffs like crazy lately
. She is also keen on pottery, and is pestering her cousins to teach her to play the guitar.
A lover of good music, Lucia reveals that India Arie, Lalah Hathaway, Bobby McFerrin, Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Vera Vaughn, Diane Reeves, Sarah Tavares, are among her few favorites.
On inspiration she says that it just comes sometimes. “That never grows old,” she quips. Everything and anything inspires me. Recently I was inspired to write songs when my uncle passes away, when I met really old friends at a wedding. She also said that it’s true that people write the best song when they are sad. Artistes are good artist when something bad happen to them. For now, Lucia said that she would love to learn some old tribal songs. Admitting that she’s been out of Nagaland for too long, Lucia said that she still have to learn a lot, so she could play a part in the music scene. But above all, she declares that she is very passionate about music. “I was meant to sing, and I pray to God I don’t lose my voice I don’t think I would exist without music…”
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