532,000 views and counting. That’s how many times people around the world have watched “Melody,” the new music video released by Holy Trinity freshman Elena Hniang Par on her YouTube and Facebook pages. And that’s not even her most-watched video to date; her cover of “Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur, posted to her Facebook in March 2017, has 1.2 million views.

For Elena, “Melody” has been a passion project. A refugee originally from Myanmar, this song is her first post in her native language of Chin, written for her by Honey KhuaitiZuu. “She’s a rapper and a singer. We got to know each other through social media and she wanted to collaborate.”

Her first original project, “Melody,” required a team of collaborators, all of whom agreed to help Elena out as volunteers over the course of a year. “We recorded the song in Honey’s studio in Indianapolis, then recorded the video in Northbrook. There’s a guy in our church who knows a lot about videography, so he shot and edited the video, and another guy in Indianapolis did the mixing, so all I had to do is sing the song.”

Elena’s the creative mind behind the video’s concept. “This song is really cute, it’s a love story, kind of, so I thought we should shoot in a bedroom, and act like I was writing the song and daydreaming about what could happen.”

While the project took nearly a year to complete, posting the video was just the beginning. “I was kind of nervous, I didn’t think people would like it or anything. The song is really catchy, but I always wonder if people will like this, if it’s the kind of music they listen to. When it got to 5k, I was thinking, oh my gosh, this is amazing. And then people kept streaming the music video and posting it on Snapchat. The moment it got to 100k, it felt crazy. I guess everyone just told their friends. There’s been no paid advertising at all.”

Despite all that recognition, most of the students who pass Elena in the hall don’t know anything about her music. “I try to keep it low-key at school. It’s not that I’m afraid, it’s just that even if I do tell them, they probably won’t look into it because it’s not in English.” Instead, her fans are coming from the Chin community here in the U.S., as well as international followers from across Asia.

With her family, Elena fled from Myanmar to Malaysia before immigrating to the U.S., arriving just days before her seventh birthday. “My dad came first, then my mom and I came, then my siblings came a year after. We came straight to Chicago. When I was younger, I used to be afraid to tell others that I fled my country. I didn’t want to seem like an intruder. But as I got older, I started embracing my background, my culture. I think I’m just a girl from a small country that came to the U.S. and is pursuing her dream, slowly. It’s been a long journey, but when I look back at it, it’s definitely worth it. There’s definitely a lot more to come. I’m proud of it.”

Elena began singing at age ten, thanks to Sunday School at church. “I would make video clips of myself singing in different languages. My sister recorded me and I used a vacuum cleaner as a microphone.” In eighth grade, she launched her Facebook page, where the positive response and viral spread of her music around the globe took her by surprise. “It’s motivated me so much more to continue with my music.”

While she’s focused on being a student now, she plans to create more songs in English and Chin and to eventually return to Myanmar and support the Chin community there. “Right now it’s just a hobby, so I can keep my balance with school. But definitely if I ever make it big, doing music as a career, I do want to go back to my country. I’d love to start an organization to give back to the schools and to my family.”

Translation of “Melody”

It isn’t enough, my love,
I want to see you in reality.

It isn’t enough, my love,
for us to be together is what i want.

C key, I’m playing is where you are at.
Key, I’m changing right now, A-minor is where I’m at.
If you’re the melody,
then I’m the harmony

We’re going to arrive, my love.
Thoughts of meeting you makes my heart beat.

While we’re watching, your shoulders I’m longing.
I want you more than the romance we watch.

On times when we disagree,
even when there’s obstacles between us,
with patience.. not losing hope… love, wait for me.
For our future, we will try.
Don’t lose hope, before achieving everything we’ve planned,
with patience.. not losing hope… love, wait for me.

Translation by: Hlawn Hlawn

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