SYRNGIEW / Shadow – A Khasi Love Song

Syrngiew is the first khasi song i wrote, in 2006. I decided to make a crossover,and subsequently the song was born. It is an expression of love undiscovered in our solitary lives.
Most of my songs were/are written, whenever i am in a dark place. I write mostly about people/ circumstances I encounter along the way. I am most driven and motivated especially by people who trusted me with their stories, and their compassion have pulled me through my own traumatic experiences. At a very tender age, i became aware of the complexities of being human. Music comes to me like the sky meets the sea.
Today i struggle along with the widespread campaign of liberation and justice for women, children and gays. I long to keep the pace of rhythm and reason through the power of music, from the never-ending woes of the world.
Music, perhaps plays a second role in everyday life, but it is the key that can free the heart and soul.

SYRNGIEW / SHADOW
translation : Gwyneth Alicia M

When day reclines to its slumber/ main travelled roads
Appear desolate…
Birds take flight, through homeward skies
Dark clouds fall on me… thoughts that hide the light

I long to taste from the fountains of love fearlessly
Here, in this dew-drenched forest
I am sheltered and hidden
Basking in my loneliness…till the dawn breaks

(Cho) The endless road stretches before me
Stormy winds across the valleys and plains
Will carry me through the despair
Even, the moon on a clear night…cannot ease the pain
In my solitude…
You shall find me…in the shadows of love

Come to me light as the breeze…
across the boundless ocean
In this voyage on a mindless ship…
cutting through troubled waters
I will hold you for eternity.


Gertrude Lamare on the historic significance of Gwyneth Alicia Mawlong’s “Syrngiew”

Released on YouTube in 2011, Gwyneth Alicia Mawlong’s “Syrngiew” is one of the most path-breaking musical productions emerging from Shillong, at least in the past decade. Its radicality lies both in its form and content. It is a Khasi song which beautifully expresses frustration and sadness over a love crippled by social detestation and non-acceptance, by virtue of its unconventional nature. The song explores the subjectivity of the first person who yearns for a love which does not have to survive in isolation, pitched within a climate of fear. In fact, the Khasi term “syrngiew” which translates into “shadow” strongly conveys the idea of a forbidden love which exists in hiding. Although there is nothing in the lyrics of the song which directly speaks about homosexuality and homosexual love, the video explicitly presents a narrative about a same-sex couple against the backdrop of a homophobic patriarchal society.

Gwyneth performing at alt-space
Gwyneth performing at alt-space

The music video interestingly negotiates between the popular and rather over-used aesthetic tropes found in several Bollywood romantic videos and an unique subversive content which embodies a powerful message about the struggle of sexual minorities. While we encounter typical shots of the lovers (performed by Gwyneth herself along with another female actor) against a background of pristine streams and grasslands, we are also presented with a deeply symbolic scene of them both being tied to a huge monolith by two antagonistic male figures. The scene appears to hint at the kind of repressive atmosphere that a city like Shillong offers to expressions of love and sexual intimacy which are not heterosexual.

Gwyneth & Lolly performing at alt-space
Gwyneth & Lolly performing at alt-space

It is worthy to mention the brutal attack on a transgender woman last year for allegedly having had a relationship with a heterosexual married man. Captured in a video which was widely circulated on Whatsapp, the attack was accompanied by sharp misogynistic and homophobic words articulated by both women and men surrounding the victim. Predictably or not, similar aggressive sentiments resonate in the YouTube comments of Syrngiew. Statements violently reveal disgust and disapproval of the women in the music video, and many in fact, make direct references to the mutilation of sexual organs, for, as they argue, if they are not used in the “natural” fashion, they may as well be destroyed. However, these are commonplace responses that any expression of non-heretonormative sexualities/relationships receive the world over. The significance of “Syrngiew” resides primarily in its success at bringing into the public domain a discourse of alternative sexualities in Meghalaya and triggering a myriad of responses, whether supportive or not. Gwyneth Mawlong has managed to powerfully establish, literally a voice for many of the people from the LGBT community in the state, through the art of music. We could also claim that the video has also created a deep rupture in the musical tradition of Meghalaya which has largely featured an idea of love which is either heterosexual, familial, gospel or platonic. “Syrngiew” is interesting for it combines within it a fusion of Khasi folk and Western music played against the lyrics which melancholically celebrate the struggle of a romantic love between two women. Moreover, as a work of art itself, the visuals, the lyrics and the music of the video together wonderfully blend into the creation of a thrilling and compelling affective as well as political response.

Gwyneth performing at alt-space
Gwyneth performing at alt-space

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Gwyneth is poet musician. She founded the first all women band of Shillong called Mermaid.

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