Neil Nongkynrih

Neil Nongkynrih (born 9 July 1970) is an award winning concert pianist from Shillong, Meghalaya, India. He is the founder, mentor and conductor of Shillong Chamber Choir (SCC) which won the reality show India's Got Talent in 2010.[1] He was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India in 2015.[2]

Neil Nongkynrih
Neil Nongkynrih in 2015.jpg
Background information
Born (1970-07-09) 9 July 1970 (age 49)
Shillong, Meghalaya, India
GenresClassical, Pop, Jazz, Hindustani, Folk, Opera
Occupation(s)Pianist, Songwriter, Keyboardist, Music Teacher, conductor, Central Board of Film Certification
InstrumentsPiano, Keyboard
Years active1987–present


Early lifeEdit

Nongkynrih was born in Meghalaya, a north-eastern state of India to AH Scott Lyngdoh, a former state minister of Meghalaya and Elvirial Nongkynrih. He is the first professional musician from his family. Introduced to Mozart and Beethoven by his grand-aunt, Nongkynrih learnt most of his initial lessons from his sister Pauline Nongkynrih, a jazz musician. In 1988 Nongkynrih left for Great Britain as a young man to study music, against the wishes of his father.[3]

Music careerEdit

Nongkynrih studied music at Trinity College and Guildhall School of Music in London. He did numerous shows as a concert pianist in United Kingdom[4]

Apart from the concerts, Nongkynrih was also teaching music in Oxfordshire. One of his many successful pupils is Philip Selway, member of the popular British band Radiohead.[5]

In 2001, Nongkynrih returned to India and started teaching piano in Shillong. In the same year he founded the Shillong Chamber Choir. [6]

Neil Nongkynrih has worked on a wide variety of musical genres ranging from Western and Indian Classical music to Bollywood and pop medleys. He rose to fame after his choir, The Shillong Chamber Choir won the Indian television reality show India’s Got Talent in 2010. [7] Since then, Nongkynrih and his team have never looked back and have gradually increased in terms of repertoire and recognition.

Neil Nongkynrih was bestowed with the Padma Shri (the fourth highest civilian award of India)  in 2015 for his contribution in the field of arts through his music. [8]

Being the director of the SCC, Neil Nongkynrih has been working on several projects, albums and collaborations. Currently, Nongkynrih has been writing an opera in Khasi, the native language of Meghalaya with the intention to revive the dialect. The opera titled ‘Sohlyngngem’ is based on a tragic Khasi folktale which is being woven into musical lingo by Nongkynrih and his team. [9]

Collaborations & Social CausesEdit

Neil Nongkynrih till date, has collaborated with various artists to create soul stirring music. Orchestra's he has collaborated with include The London Concertante and The Vienna Chamber Orchestra to name a few. Neil has also been featured with the world renowned Fitz William Quartet in his debut performance in Switzerland in 2004.

Under his banner, the SCC, Neil has worked on some interesting projects which have contributed to notable social causes. Few of them to mention are:

Nongkynrih and his choir have also performed with artists like Boman Irani, Usha Uthup, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, and Hariharan. These are just a few to mention apart from a long list of interesting collaborations that have led to out-of-the-box music.

Works and projectsEdit

Shillong Chamber ChoirEdit

Neil Nongkynrih came back home to Shillong, India in the year 2001 after fourteen years in Europe despite a promising career as a classical pianist. He heard the sounds of the guns early in 2001 and decided that he wanted to replace it with the sound of music. [15] From a very humble beginning where he attracted a group of ordinary young people and making their debut as the Shillong Chamber Choir, it led to locally singing a whole range of music; from folk to opera, from rock to jazz, blossoming even to Hindustani classical and revamped versions of Indian cinematic music. [16]

Based in Shillong, The Shillong Chamber Choir (SCC) is an Indian chamber choir founded in 2001 by Neil Nongkynrih. The choir shot to fame after it won the reality talent show, India's Got Talent (Season 2) in October 2010, on Colors TV, part of the Got Talent franchise, where it performed western chorals, as well as choral-style revamps of Hindi film (Bollywood) classics.[17] The choir under the direction of Nongkynrih, participated in the 6th World Choir Games held at Shaoxing China (Shanghai) in July 2010 and was awarded Gold in all three categories - Musica Sacra, Gospel and Popular.[18] The choir also performed for former US President Barack Obama and the then first lady Michelle Obama during their visit to India in 2010. [19]

One of the notable events was when Neil Nongkynrih’s version of ‘Vande Maataram’ sung by the SCC was played on the reputed National Geographic Channel during the live telecast programme of landing of the Indian satellite ‘Chandrayaan – 2’.[20]

The SCC has performed extensively in India and has been touring various parts of the world. Over the years, The Shillong Chamber Choir has worked on several projects and collaborations under the leadership of Nongkynrih. With the SCC, Neil is working on revamping the Choir’s repertoire with many new compositions and out of the box medleys apart from the opera ‘Sohlyngngem’ that he is currently working on. [21]

Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)Edit

Apart from achieving laurels in music, Neil Nongkynrih is currently serving as a board member of India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) community since 2017 which is the core body dealing with affairs of the Indian Film Industry, the biggest movie-making industry in the world. [22]

World Choir CouncilEdit

In the year 2012, Neil Nongkynrih was appointed by the World Choir Council as the sole representative from India to represent the country on an international platform. Neil served as a member of the council from July 2012 - 2016. [23]

Sohlyngngem – The OperaEdit

One of Neil's major projects include an opera titled ‘Sohlyngngem’ which is based on a tragic Khasi folktale. Even though excerpts from the opera have been performed earlier, 3 pieces from the opera were performed by the SCC at the MTV India Music Summit in 2019, held in Jaipur which was a highlight of the 3 day musical event. Nongkynrih is still working on the opera and it will be performed by his choir, The Shillong Chamber Choir in all its entirety once it is completed. [24]

Home School – Shillong Chamber SchoolEdit

After his return to India, Neil started a home school at his residence in Shillong for the kids, who visited his home almost every day, to help them excel in regular as well as musical education. In 2008, renowned director Urmi Juvekar made a documentary on Neil’s life, titled ‘The Shillong Chamber Choir and the Little Home School’ which garnered attention at various film festivals across the globe. [25]

After years of organic development, the school has now evolved into a proper establishment named the ‘Shillong Chamber School’ with around 20 students in attendance. The school's curriculum ranges from regular studies to various arts like music and drama, sports and other activites. The students of the school have performed with the SCC and the European Concert Orchestra in Mumbai for a Christmas Concert and also before Rajiv Bajaj and cricketer MS Dhoni at a private event in Pune along with Neil and the choir. [26]

Honors and awardsEdit

  • Padma Shri, 2015[27]
  • U Tirot Sing Award, 2011[28][29]
  • Forbes Person of the Year, 2010‐11[30]
  • Indian Chamber of Commerce Musician of the Year, 2010–11
  • CNN IBN Special Achievement Award for Indian of the Year, 2010–11
  • Kalabaaz of the year - Big TV Awards, 2011
  • Member, World Choir Council[31]
  • The Governor of Maryland, USA award for outstanding achievement, 2012
  • Exceptional Talent & Contribution to the Indo-American Community, 2012
  • Member, Central Board of Film Certification, India, 2017 - present [32]


  1. ^ "Neil Nongkynrih - the North-East-India's Chopin". 11 July 2014.
  2. ^ Owe my Padma Shri to god: Shillong Chamber Choir founder, Business Standard
  3. ^ "Bach in the hills". The Indian Express. 23 August 2009. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Beyond the chamber". The Hindu. 10 December 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Neil Nongkynrih". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  6. ^ "All Together Now And With Feeling". Tehelka. 16 October 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Shillong Choir wins 'India's Got Talent Khoj 2'". News18. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Neil Nongkynrih receives Padma Shri award". The Sentinel. 9 April 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  9. ^ Jun 21, TNN |; 2015; Ist, 06:11. "Khasi opera work on: Shillong choir founder | Guwahati News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  10. ^ "The Foundation". Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  11. ^ "Emissaries of peace from NE performs at the Gateway of India". Nagaland Post. 11/25/2012. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Shillong Choir open Saath Hai Hum Uttarakhand telethon, retrieved 23 February 2020
  13. ^ "Shillong Chamber Choir to perform for a global cause". The Sentinel. 19 November 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  14. ^ "Amitabh Bachchan to perform with Shillong Chamber Choir in Jodhpur". News18. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  15. ^ Dutta, Aiyushman (27 June 2015). "The Shillong experiment". Livemint. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  16. ^ November 24, India Today Web Desk; November 25, 2017UPDATED:; Ist, 2017 16:42. "I was the first person to be allowed to play Bollywood songs at St Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata: Neil Nongkynrih". India Today. Retrieved 23 February 2020.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  17. ^ "Shillong Chamber Choir wins India's Got Talent Khoj 2". Sify. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  18. ^ "Bollywood aided Shillong choir's gold run". Hindustan Times. 30 July 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Shillong Chamber Choir to perform for Barack Obama". The Hindu. PTI. 30 October 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 23 February 2020.CS1 maint: others (link)
  20. ^ "Shillong Chamber Choir to honour Chandrayaan 2's moon landing by singing Vande Mataram". Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  21. ^ "Singing opera in Khasi: The Shillong Chamber Choir - Toko Anu in conversation with William Richmond Basaiawmoit". Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  22. ^ "I've great passion for films: Neil". The Shillong Times. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  23. ^ "Neil appointed India rep to World Choir Council". The Shillong Times. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  24. ^ Nair, Malini (19 October 2019). "Giving Khasi language its due with an opera". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  25. ^, Oberon Amsterdam, The Shillong Chamber Choir and the Little Home School | IDFA, retrieved 23 February 2020
  26. ^ Balasubramanian, Malavika (22 December 2016). "A very choral Christmas". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  27. ^ "SCC founder Nongkynrih conferred Padma Shri". The Shillong Times. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  28. ^ "Republic day celebrated in the state". Department of Information and Public Relations. 27 January 2011. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  29. ^ "Padma Awards 2015". Press Information Bureau. Archived from the original on 26 January 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  30. ^ "The Shillong Choir: A Unique Note". Forbes (India). 28 December 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  31. ^ "Shillong choir founder named to World Choir Council". The Assam Tribune. 1 June 2012. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  32. ^ "CBFC Board Reconstituted". Retrieved 23 February 2020.