Pop Music in Burma Ready to Pop
There is more that is left to be desired.
Such are the sentiments of the local music industry referring to Burma’s slow climb to get to where it is now. It has taken 30 long years in fact. The lack of support and xenophobic tendencies has put it to a shaky start.
Music producers and artists could not bring in musical instruments to Burma. It was the same thing with recording gadgets and equipment. Another form of censorship was enacted when radio stations did not allow the airing of certain types of music that were considered unfavourable lyrics and vocal quality.
Local censorship view foreign influences as a form of threat to the Burmese customs and traditions that would spread much like a disease of the social kind infecting the young generation. Although it is a bit ironic that the traditional Burmese patriotic songs are renditions of equally foreign Japanese music.
Local music artists who are passionate about the development of original pop music in Burma expressed disappointment how some local artist would render cover songs of the more popular foreign artists in the industry. Take for instance “Sleeping Child” by the popular Danish band Michael Learns to Rock which has five renditions of local artists.
The strategy although quite understandable has earned criticisms from other artists saying that it does nothing to promote Burmese music. Critics say that it is an easy way to earn money while creativity and originality and promotion of Burmese music are heavily sacrificed.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, those who are in favour of singing cover songs argue that coming up with renditions of foreign artist’s songs play an important role in raising musical awareness and improve Burmese exposure to different kinds of music. Especially that local music is in its infant stages.
The debate is still on whether to pursue popularity by making more cover songs at the expense of creativity and development of original pop Burmese music.
The Struggle for Originality
There have been local artists who have attempted to break out from the safer route of singing cover music. One such artist in the 1980s tried to break new ground by composing, arranging and singing original songs. Despite his earnest attempts, he was heavily criticised for composing songs that are just too similar with that of the Beatles and Bee Gees band that were hugely popular that time.
So it seems like the struggle for something that is originally Burmese in taste and feel is still out of grasp. The music that is currently in the industry lacks the distinctive qualities that can point to Burmese culture.
What is being listened to over and over again are three or five familiar chords and simplistic arrangement. The lyrics are not so much of a problem as composers can easily write beautiful, meaningful and rich lyrics reflective of the Burmese culture. The melodies however are too boxed and traditional, mostly taken from folk compositions.
The struggle is still the same as with the other aspects of Burmese life.