Sunday, December 4, 2016


Myanmar’s music, like its art, is influenced mainly by China and Thailand. For the most part, their music is based on the melody rather than the harmony. Most of their music is based on a 4/4 time signature and variations (2/4, 8/16). Apparently, in Orthodox Theravada Buddhism, they see music as not having a moral characteristic (um, ok…? I mean, I saw some things when I was a music major, but still.). Even though they are a Buddhist country, they evidently ignored this part because they continued to make music (thankfully). Different ethnic groups, like the Mon, certainly had their own styles and variations as well. 

Burmese classical music is generally divided into two types: indoor music and outdoor music. There’s also cat music, where you just stand in the doorway, not really sure if you’re going in or out. (Just kidding, I made that up.) Indoor music is more like chamber music, generally led by a female singer with accompaniment. Outdoor music is music of the court, typically used for ceremonial purposes. 

Mahagita music is essentially a collection of classical songs. It’s divided into a number of categories, depending on what kind of song it’s about: royal court songs, songs for worshiping spirits, songs for sorrow, etc. Folk traditions use music in a variety of situations. Some are used in religious festivals, and some are tied in with theatre, dance, and the arts. Folk music is performed by a folk ensemble, which is generally comprised of a various number of drums, gongs, and other percussive instruments. 

Representing the underground punk music scene
Rock music was introduced in the 1960s and became popular during the 1980s. Punk, metal, and other genres gained popularity on an underground level. Hip-hop music was introduced during the late 1990s and grew a following across the country among the youth. 

One musician I came across is Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein. Her music almost had a pop/rock quality to it with acoustic piano on a few of her songs. I kind of liked it. There’s something about it that reminds me of some late 1990s rock music. The sound quality on Spotify wasn’t all that great for some reason, but it sounded like she had that same closed-throat vocal style that Shakira has. 

I came across the music of rocker Lay Phyu. He has a nice rock sound to his music, bordering on metal at times. I suppose I’d probably categorize it as metal. It reminds me of Metallica or Guns N Roses at times. Even though he’ll still mix in some traditional instruments and acoustic guitar into the mix. I like it. 

And thanks to Anthony Bourdain for helping these guys out, the Burmese band Side Effect got some major love from the US. They were even invited to perform at SWSX a few years ago. I can see why. They’re really pretty good. 

Hip-hop is definitely a growing trend in Myanmar today, especially among the youth. And for the most part, it tends to be an American-influenced style of hip-hop. Some hip-hop artists mixed it with some pop for more of a chance at commercial success. Probably one artist I came across who demonstrates this well is Yan Yan Chan. Another is the up-and-coming one is J-Me. You can tell both guys have studied their craft and have listened to a lot of American hip-hop. I also listened to Kyaw Pha and Ye Lay, who perform in the same style, except Ye Lay tends to be a little slower (at least based on the three songs I heard from him).

Up next: the food

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