Filed under: Burma
This week’s post is the first in a series of guest posts. I recently came to the realization, that if there was ever going to be a post on the music of Burma, I would have to turn to Alan Bishop. Alan is best known as one third of the Sun City Girls and co-founder of Sublime Frequencies. Also, this post is the first to feature music from cassette.
After hunting all over Myanmar (Burma) during my many trips there, I’ve never come face to face with a Burmese vinyl LP. Nor have I heard of one or seen a photo of one. I also have a feeling there were few 45s although I have two children’s song recordings on 7” vinyl. Every Burmese musician or music fan I have ever spoken to claim LPs and 45’s didn’t exist between the 78 and cassette formats. Since Burma’s independence in the late 1940’s, the government has kept a fair distance from the rest of the International community and the regime discouraged western-influenced music until things loosened up a bit in the 1970’s. During the 1960’s, the local music scene wouldn’t have been allowed to work above ground as a “western-styled” record producing pop industry and it’s a truly sketchy period with hardly a spec of info. I’ve searched far and wide for anything coherent from the 1960’s and come up frustrated thus far. There are tales about how reel to reel tapes were transferred to cassette for sale in the early 1970’s. The kids would go to the shop and choose specific songs and the shop would dub a custom cassette from reels and charge accordingly per track. And the reels were apparently from copies of the master studio reels from popular groups at the time. One of the most popular, the Playboy Group, was a Burmese rock band formed in the early 1970’s by guitarist/vocalist Than Naing (often referred to as “Playboy Than Naing”) Other members of the group included Ko Kyaw Min (guitar), Ko Kyaw Naing (bass), Zaw Win Shein (drums), Tin Oo Thaung (keyboards) and Than Naing’s wife Pearl (vocalist). The band specialized in western-styled cover songs and helped turn on Burmese society to a wide variety of foreign artists including The Beatles, The Doors, CCR, The Youngbloods, and many others. The band was active into the 1980’s and recorded many cassette-only releases during their career. A few years ago, they reformed and began recording and performing again. Than Naing now owns a construction company in Yangon and in 2005, became committee secretary for the newly founded Myanmar Music Association.
/ “Flower With Only a Night Time Scent” – This track is Than Naing’s clever way of describing a prostitute. He sings the story of a woman (flower) who is only sweet to him in the evenings (has a night time scent only).
Alan Bishop (March 2009)
No catalog number, record label or release date listed. Distributed by Tapyi Thu A Twat of Myanmar.