Myanmar Music

22.02.2011 Myanmar Music Scene
There is a lively live music scene in Yangon apparently, with some very good rock bands, we are told! They certainly seem to love their music and there are endless radio stations blaring out all the most popular tunes… sung in Myanmar (Burmese) of course!
It’s slightly disconcerting for my Western ears to listen to familiar songs in a different language. It’s like when you recognise the tune and try to sing along but realise you don’t actually know the words. Then it’s a guessing game to see if you can remember the original artist. Pop is incredibly popular of course, Westlife and Ronan Keating are on a loop but they are not averse to covering oldies and there’s a fair smattering of 80’s classics (Burmese Bonnie Tyler anyone?) and even good old Dolly Parton and Elvis are in there. All faithfully rendered with pretty much the same arrangement as the original, with perhaps a few additions of twangy guitars and that background bing bong sound they like so much in Asia. Just sung in another language.
Ah, takes me back to travelling around Peru where every kind of music was covered by pan pipes. Like being on permanent hold in a shopping mall lift.
Hilariously, or tragically depending on your viewpoint, many Myanmar people are blissfully unaware that these songs originally belong to other artists. After all, most of them haven’t been allowed to travel outside their own country and consequently there is precious little talk of the rest of the world generally and certainly no performance rights or original artist attribution mentioned specifically. Which in turn means, if you extrapolate further, that most of the Myanmar population believe they have the most fantastically creative musicians on the planet. I mean, they invented The Beatles! And Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Abba, Madonna, Michael Jackson and the rest. Woo hoo!
OK, with the advent of satellite TV and internet connections that train of thought is a little tenous, especially when it comes to the younger generation who seem scarily switched on. But somewhere around here there is someone who thinks Elvis is a really hip Myanmar singer. Fact.

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