Music has provided a rallying point for the masses during political upheavals in Burma, just as it has elsewhere in South-East Asia. It has served as a potent response to the rapid political and social displacements brought on by neocolonialism, industrialization and dictatorship.
Yet simultaneously, music has been appropriated to serve the Establishment by strengthening national cohesion, promoting entrenched power structures and spreading selected values and information to the multitudes.
Thanks to governments tolerant of criticism and Western musical styles, many musicians now enjoy freedom in their own countries. But musicians in the many Asian countries controlled by dictatorships have been silent for decades. Burma is one such country, where musicians and songwriters face severe censorship.
The text above is the introduction of Chapter 6 in the book ‘Shoot the Singer’ which tells the in-depth story about music censorship in Burma.
Read / print the chapter:
Chapter 6 in full (23 pages in A4 PDF format)
Banned in Burma
Burma has a long history of music censorship. After seizing power in 1962, the military quickly moved to ban clubs featuring Western-style music. In the 1970’s, the Central Registration Board officially barred:
• anything detrimental to the Burmese socialist programme;
• anything detrimental to the ideology of the state;
• anything detrimental to the socialist economy;
• anything which might be harmful to national unity and solidarity;
• anything which might be harmful to security, the rule of law, peace and public order;
• any incorrect ideas and opinions which do not accord with the times;
• any descriptions which, though factually correct, are unsuitable because of the time or the circumstances of their writing;
• any obscene (pornographic) writing;
• any writing which would encourage crimes and unnatural cruelty and violence;
• any non-constructive criticism of the work of government departments;
• any libel or slander of any individual.
Chapter 6 in ‘Shoot the Singer’ focuses on Burma
Imprisoned: Musician Zaw Win Htut
Banned: Sai Htee Saing
Imprisoned: Musician Win Maw