Myanmar/Burma: Exiled musicians publish album of protest songs

19 April 2010
A new album of satire, poetry and music produced by Burmese activists living in exile in India is aired around the world, smuggled into Burma and can even be heard secretly on radios there.

In songs and verse, singers and poets attack mismanagement of the country’seconomy, human rights abuses and the Myanmar regime’ maneuvers to avoid relinquishing power, wrote Lawi Weng in The Irrawaddy.

In an article in the British newspaper The Independent, headlined: ‘Sound of the underground — When the junta banned traditional protest songs, its leading exponents chose a life of exile rather than fall silent,’ journalist Andrew Buncombe describes his meeting with a group of exiled musicians in Delhi.

“Communities of exiled Burmese around the world put together their own collections of protest songs, which are sold on CDs and even broadcast back into Burma where residents listen secretly on their radios,” he wrote in his article.

An estimated 6,000 Burmese exiles live in India’s capital, Delhi. In the west of Delhi, The Independent’s reporter interviewed Zin Naing, who escaped to India from Burma after the 1988 uprising and who has assisted in producing a new CD album with recordings of traditional Burmese protest songs with a modern twist. It is entitled ‘Gaining Victory for Us and Defeat for Them’, and is a new collection of songs, music and poetry. The genre is called Thangyat and in Burmese tradition, this kind of songs and skits typically have been an expression of local grievances.

CD and cassettes
“Now, inside Burma, Thangyat is not allowed, so ours has become one of the only ones that people can get. We produce it on CD as well as cassettes, which are smuggled into Burma,” Zin Naing told.

Last year, pro-democracy activists produced a Thangyat album entitled “Let’s go to prison to conquer”, paying tribute to the defiance of Burma’s political prisoners.

In 2008, the 2007 monk-led demonstrations were the focus of a Thangyat album entitled ‘Phone Phone Cha Hma Lone Lone Ya Mae’ (‘Monks! Fight for Absolute Success’).

Support to the monks
The Burmese exiles who put together the new protest album remain confident that change can come. A song performed by Ngwe Toe, the 40-year-old lead singer of the group, says that the monks will lead the transformation. The last lines of the song, sung as call-and-response, is translated to English in the article in The Independent:

    • ‘If the monks unite – the military becomes afraid
    • If the monks unite – the religion will be glowing
    • If the monks take to the front lines – we will escape from poverty
    If the monks speak the truth – they will speak to the whole world’


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The Independent – 14 April 2010:

‘Burmese music: Sound of the underground’

The Irrawaddy – 29 March 2010:

‘Thangyat Songs Ridicule Than Shwe’s Election’

Google News – continuously updated:

Search: ‘Burma’ + ‘Thangyat’

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