Let's talk about music (January 2, 2004)

I have exposed all kind of music after arriving USA. I have to admit one thing before I continue my own understanding of music world. I did not have any knowledge about any kind of music when I was in Burma. All I knew were I loved music, listened Burmese songs, and even played guitar pretty good as an amateur. Generally, I just knew pop if the song is easy to listen, and rock or heavy rock if a song is quick and loud. So I thought I knew much about the field of music back then.

Actually, I was wrong and I didn’t know about music at all. I realized it when I took a music class as an option in Hawaii Pacific University, the first school I was admitted in the US. The class was fun and interesting. The best part was when we learnt Hawaii music and Hula dance. One day, each student was asked what kind of music he or she liked. I heard many answered specific kinds of music: pop, rock, new age, alternative, hip hop, country, jazz, blue, reggae, and etc. When it was my turn, I replied “I like all kind of music which is easy to listen.” I realized my answer was vague and obviously showing I was not sure what kind of music I like. I was quite embarrassed, I could feel my palms started to sweat, and a lot of questions boiling in my head. What was new age? What was jazz? How about blue or reggae? And???

Talking about music, I came across a couple incidents recently. Just the day after Christmas day, I bought a music video DVD that is a collection of 70’s and 80’s hit songs by world famous musicians including John Lennon, Alice Cooper, Elton John, Sting, REM, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, U2, and so on. The songs were awesome. At the same time, I noticed a similarity. The music style is very similar to the style very popular in Burma these days. A Ngae, Myo Gyi, Zaw Win Htut, and Lay Phyu are rock music stars in Burma and they are also my favorites. What I realize now is that the songs and the styles in Burmese rock albums are may be not all but mostly copied from that of 70’s and 80’s English songs. My Buddha! Our music is still in 80’s era.

Then two days ago, the New Year eve, it was a slow day in my job. I opened a Burmese songs tape while I and my co-workers were finishing our works, and there were four young Americans waiting for their foods. I did not know the song title and the singers because they were new. I thought the songs were good. After listening a couple songs, I noticed those American guys were giggling and whispering something. I didn’t know what it was about. Later, according to my co-worker, I realized that they were laughing about the Burmese songs that were copied from English songs. Dame it! Our popular Burmese songs were copied from others. Why not own tune?

Thinking back the famous Burmese songs we like most and all time hit songs in Burma, many songs are originally from English version. Also in any album sung by any Burmese singer, the songs are mixed types. They do not have specific style or taste. I doubt many of our musicians do not have much knowledge about the world of music as well. Why?

I read the interview with Mon Aung, who became popular with the album 2/88 Inya, also one of my favorite singers, from the Internet online news. He admitted that our Burmese music is left far behind compared to others due to lack of music education, instruments, international musical information, and supports.

Hey don’t be sad my readers. Not all news is bad news when talking about Burmese music. It is impossible without mentioning San Htee Saing, and Khin Maung Toe. I think all of their songs are own tune. Also the songs writers, San Kan Late, Ko Maung Maung, Ko Ne Win are awesome. I still like their songs.

Another new development emerged a few years ago. First Burmese style hip hop songs were introduced by Myo Kyawt Myaing. A couple years later, other hip hop groups, Theory, Acid, and Zero showed up in around year 2000. I have listened some of their songs, I think they were not bad although I am not used to hip hop songs. Finally, there is a group called M.F.G (Myanmar Future Generations) appeared recently. All of their songs are hip hop and own tune. The group throws in all the feeling of today’s young generations, and the situation of our country. Their ideas, lyrics and style are very creative and powerful enough to reach the listeners’ hearts directly.

At this point, I agree with a friend of mine. He said, “We should be proud of those young generations who can create such incredible music with very limited of resources”. I just want to add one more thing. To become pure musicians with the international level, you have to really learn it and to be creative. But without our country and local supports: such as freedom of making all kinds of music, music awards program, international musical seminars, music competition events, free amateur music concerts in shopping centers or open public spaces, and so on, our trend of music will be still in 70’s or 80’s.