Family & friends, welcome! :)
After several of you responded to my lengthy emails with gentle suggestions to simply put my updates in blog form, I finally decided to go through with it. And I'll keep updating you here on two conditions:  you mustn't share the link with anyone before consulting me (I really don't want the entire world, or even randoms, to have access to such personal information)  kindly post your comments, if any, at the bottom of the post as opposed to emailing me your response and flooding my inbox (I promise to read and respond to your comments as quickly as I can!).
(Btw, the main photo you see at the top of this page is the view from my balcony! And I love it!)
Now, on to the actual updates:
My general update is mainly that I am thoroughly enjoying my time here. Classes are enlightening, professors are brilliant, quirky, and so kind, my classmates are interesting, the food is amazing, the weather is still not as hot as I was expecting it to be, and the mosquitoes are still nowhere in sight! So, yay :)
My more specific update deals with the bravest thing I've ever done to date: uploading a cover video to YouTube - of not just my singing, but my [way below average] guitar-playing as well.
For those of you may not have heard about it or seen the video yet, here it is:
To my complete surprise, the video has gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback, despite the obvious audio/video quality challenges, and it managed to get over 80K hits within just 6 days!
Most of the credit goes to the brains behind the operation, Jacklyn Mathew, and my new personal promoter and favorite sister, Varsha Thomas. Here's the backstory:
Ms. Mathew sent me the links to both the original song by Magic! (http://youtu.be/PIh2xe4jnpk) and the dad's response cover by Benji & Jenna Cowart (http://youtu.be/TzyQx6AL1MQ), told me to watch both, and then casually suggested that I be the first to write/record the daughter's response. Of course, my initial reaction to that was, "WOW I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS SONG! ... Geez, this couple is really talented and their response is brilliant. ... Sure would be cool to try my hand at the daughter's version, EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT that means I'd have to:
A] rewrite the lyrics (who has time for that? Not I.), B] learn the chords (again, who has time for that... it would take me forever...), C] learn the strumming pattern (this is definitely getting to be too much), D] figure out how to sing the new lyrics WHILST playing the chords that I will have just learned, E] record the damn thing, F] do it quickly, before someone else beats me to it, G] do it in such a way that I wouldn't mind it being shared with other human beings.
And somehow, this, like many of my past musical endeavors, turned out to be a truly divine, spiritually-led experience, despite the many initial fears and insecurities that were holding me back. I hesitantly (very hesitantly) decided to start playing around with the lyrics, and then, it was almost like magic (no pun intended lol)... They just came to me... When I attempted to learn the guitar chords, I discovered that they were the same exact ones that my dear sister, Salena Jacob, had taught me just a couple months beforehand...
So I pulled out my laptop, recorded about 9 or 10 takes, ended up using the final one for my upload, and the rest is history.
There were, of course, a few technical glitches that were worked through quickly with the help of Varsha and our good friend David Verghese... and then it was up to my amazing promoters, headed by Jackie and Varsha, to spread the word and get the views up.
Oddly enough, the views have been steadily increasing (we're well over 100K now!!) and just about all of the comments have been positive - which is crazy considering that random YouTubers are generally not afraid to spew negativity everywhere and that the overall quality of the video is severely lacking... People, especially dads, have really taken to the lyrics and have been so openly appreciative of the message of love and respect my version has given to the song. Truly amazing. And I'm so grateful.
This experience is teaching me so many things... Most of all it's making me want to be a better, braver artist - and I'm ready to do work extra hard to improve my craft so that I can continue spreading the joy and positivity of music with a world that so desperately needs it.
Grateful. And glad that I don't have to do it alone. :)
Big hug to all of you,
:: a l i s h a ::
Day 12 of being in Chennai, and I'm loving it!
Allow me to share with you a few things that have happened since my last update:
(Note: some of this information is very specific and may be a bit foreign to those of you who are not as familiar with certain aspects of Indian/Tamil/Malayalee culture or my church background...but just go with it. And remember, google is your friend.)
1) I had the chance to visit the Chetpet Mar Thoma Church with my uncle, aunt, and their sons' families last Sunday as it is their home church. The parish is about 700 families large (making it the largest MTC of all seven in Chennai) and their building is spacious and beautiful (though part of it is undergoing construction at the moment). They have English divine service most Sundays at 7:30am. Now that's wayyyy too early if you ask me, but it's apparently only because the Malayalam divine service is scheduled directly afterward at 9:15. (English/Malayalam Holy Communion services are held just once a month - in this case, tomorrow.) The youth fellowship was leading the service this time, and I was pleasantly surprised by their clear dedication to worship and their natural musical talents.
Other highlights of the day included:
-meeting several people who either know or are related to my family/other friends from back home.
-playing guitar while singing in front of people for the first time EVER [and not completely sucking] since I started learning this past January. (I was asked last minute to fill in for the Sunday School worship leader who had come down with the chicken pox.)
-being introduced to a few of the Yuvajana Sakhyam youth members (or "yuvas" as they call themselves, lol) and sitting in on their weekly meeting that's held during the Sunday School time.
2) I MOVED! -into a lovely [and very safe] 9th floor, three bedroom/bathroom "flat" with two other fantastic and super talented girls who are also studying at KM (which is just a two-minute walk down the street). It's amazing how quickly this new place has begun to feel like home, and that is in part due to the fact that I have some pretty awesome roommates. One of the girls is from Coimbatore and has already been here for a year. Her parents are heavily involved with her education - not to mention they're also responsible for our apartment unit - so they call just about every night to make sure we're doing alright and are always ready to help if we need anything at all. The other girl is from Delhi; she's one year older than me and we share sooo many common interests. I feel super, super blessed by these new relationships and so grateful that even this, the most doubtful of situations, has turned into something amazing.
3) Classes began the day after I moved. :) And they've been wonderful. Much of it so far has been a refresher course, but what makes it cool is that every person is here to study music in some shape or form. Music is what unites us all and drives us to move forward, and it's so clear everywhere you turn. Jam sessions in between or after class are typical and encouraged by the faculty - and it's a really fun way to meet and collaborate with other like-minded musicians. I'm the only one from the U.S., but the other students in my "batch" are from all over the Middle East and India. So far, lectures have been given by professors from London, Armenia, and Michigan. :)
4) My India number has been activated!! Finally. For any of you who don't already have it, email me and I'll send it over :)
-Please download Whatsapp and add me so we can stay in touch by texting for free!
Other than all of that, I've been getting more used to the area, the currency, and the general way of life over here as the days go by... Since my Delhi roommate is also new to the area, it's been fun to explore and enjoy Chennai together. The food has been fantastic (had the BEST butter masala dosa the other night - and went to the gym right afterward lol), the mosquitos are almost nowhere to be seen now that I've moved, and the weather has been on the cooler side of things this week... so all in all, I'm a pretty happy camper.
Thanks again for reading! I'll try my best to make these updates a weekly thing... :)
Until next time...
:: a l i s h a ::
Hello everyone :) and Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans,
I’m loving my time here in Chennai so far. And I finallyyyyyy have wifi access here at the house, so as promised and for those of you who are interested, here's a more detailed account of my journey over to the motherland from earlier this week:
My trip was pretty decent overall, thanks to window seats, Emirates airlines, and their helpful airport staff. A couple weeks ago, Emirates informed me that I’d have to check in my guitar as opposed to carrying it on with me - which I wasn’t really happy about. I’ve heard so many horror stories about instruments getting thrown around and coming out severely damaged or almost irreparable. Fortunately though, once they actually saw that my guitar was travel size and had a softer case than most others, they let me carry it on. Yay. :)
(By the way, traveling with an instrument is similar to what I’d imagine traveling with a baby or a pet would be like - minus the feeding/bathroom part. Plus it’s an instant conversation starter.)
The first flight was 13 hours long, and due mainly to the fact that I had three whole seats to myself, tons of entertainment to choose from, and a few really good naps, it was over before I knew it. The stop in Dubai was also 13 hours long, but felt much shorter since I spent most of that time sleeping in the hotel. If I hadn't been traveling alone, I would've loved to do some sightseeing. Next time.
The last leg of the trip was only 4 hours, and everything was fine until the little boy sitting next to me vomited all over himself and his middle seat lol. I’m just thankful that he didn’t throw up on me and that this only happened within the last 10 minutes of the flight. I really don’t know whether or not I would’ve made it otherwise.
The only thing I was a teensy bit nervous about was actually landing in Chennai and having to deal with all of the airport madness thereafter on my own, what with customs and baggage claim and waiting for my ride... But it really could not have gone any smoother. Since I have an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) card, the customs guy literally just looked at my forms, stamped my passport, and sent me on my way without a single word. Then it was a short walk over to baggage claim where I was able to quickly get a cart and load all three of my bags with no help. Waited a little while for my uncle to pick me up, and then we were off to his house in Kodambakkam, where I'm staying temporarily until other arrangements are made.
I spent most of that first day resting, and I also got to meet my uncle/aunt’s sweet granddaughters: Tesia (12) and Tasha (8). Their dad (Tiju) is my second-cousin, and his mom is my dad's first-cousin (her mom and my deceased paternal grandmother are sisters). Tiju, his wife Babita, Tesia, Tasha live one level above the flat where I'm staying with his parents. It's a nice place - very clean, great food, hardly any bugs so far... but of course it’s extremely hot. Two showers a day are essential. Oh, they also have an outdoor watchdog - she’s a yellow lab, and her name is Snuffy :)
Should be getting my India number by Sunday and will be sending it to you all then. Don’t forget to download Whatsapp to your phones if you’d like to text me for free!
That's all for now. Thanks for reading :)
:: a l i s h a ::