Myanmar/Burma: New Win Maw songs smuggled out of Burma

16 February 2011
The singer and human rights activist Win Maw has been imprisoned in Burma since 2008. Nevertheless, he continues his struggle for freedom of expression from the prison. In February 2011, Freemuse received three new songs from him.

Win Maw doesn’t give up that easily. On 5 March 2009 he was sentenced to further ten years imprisonment – an addition to the sentence of eight years imprisonment he received in 2008.

His health is heavily affected by the torture and conditions he has experienced in Burma’s concentration-camp-like prisons. But he continues his struggle from within the prison, and Freemuse is proud to present three new songs which have been smuggled out from one of the most repressive countries of this world.

In one of the songs, ‘Go to sleep’, rather than complaining about his own situation in the prison camp, Win Maw urges activists to act instead of just talk. His songs are not the songs of a defeated activist but an activist continuing his struggle.

Reporting from Burma
Win Maw is one of Burma’s most famous musicians, and he was also one of the VJ’s who contributed to the success of the award winning documentary ‘Burma VJ’.

When Win Maw could no longer perform because of harsh censorship he started sending reports to the Norwegian based ‘Voice of Burma’ (DVB).

His brother Win Zaw told the news provider Irriwaddy:

“In fact, he didn’t mean to become a journalist, yet, his desire to expose the real situation inside Burma turned him into an undercover journalist for an exile news station”

Win Maw later was one of the main contributors to the documentary ‘Burma VJ’ that uncovered Burmese regime brutality. He was arrested for those activities in 2008.

In 2010 he was awarded the Kenji Nagai Memorial Award for his commitment as a freelance journalist in Burma.

Freemuse has previously protested to the Burmese government, but never received a reply from the regime.

In 2005 Freemuse published a background article to music censorship in Burma in the book ‘Shoot the singer’. The article, written by Irriwaddy editor Aung Zaw, is still one of the few existing overviews of Burmese repression of music:

Myanmar / Burma: Music under siege
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. Read more…



Songs by Win Maw

Composer and lyrics by Win Maw
Publisher: Win Maw

Any royalty should be forwarded to Freemuse.
We will forward it to his family.



Click to read more about Win Maw on
Win Maw

Myanmar / Burma



Right-click to download song               Right-click to download song
Go and sleep                         Idiot
  Right-click to download song
March of Saffron Robe (instrumental)


Translation of the lyrics

Is that so? Is that so? Yes it is. Yes it is.
Isn’t it so? Isn’t it so? No it ain’t. No it ain’t.
Whatever they shout he shouts, but he doesn’t know what it is
Whatever they say he writes down, but he doesn’t know what he’s writing.
He doesn’t know whether the horse he is riding is a mare or a stallion.
They tell him go and he sets out without knowing north from south.
Is that so? Is that so? Yes it is. Yes it is.
Isn’t it so? Isn’t it so? No it ain’t. No it ain’t.

Is it true? Yes it is. No it’s not. No, it’s not.
He has no views of his own, but finds them all in others’ mouths.
If they say do, he does it, but he doesn’t know why.
If they tell him ‘Look’, he’ll look but he won’t see.

Is that so? Is that so? Yes it is. Yes it is.
Isn’t it so? Isn’t it so? No it ain’t. No it ain’t.
Just crowd noise, crowd noise x 16

Translators comment
The phrase Yaun-Wa-wa We-Lay-Lay is used for offstage noise to represent a crowd scene, and this song appears to be directed at the USDA, the military government’s rent-a-mob

Go and sleep
Take a rest
Don’t go making a mushroom of yourself, mate
If you want to compete with me, you’ll need to be at it 10 years
Don’t try to pull a fast one, you should get real and understand your role in life
Take a rest. Shut your mouth. Take a break over there. Shut your mouth and take a rest

You’re such a bullshit artist, going here and there
Talking about the tigers and the elephants you’ve shot
Trying to be too smart, you build your house with iron bars
But the years will bring it tumbling down in the end
Take a rest. Shut your mouth. Take a break over there
Shut your mouth and take a rest

You’re drowning in your floods and winds of storming talk
And now you’ll lose your way
Real buildings are made with hands, not hot air
If you don’t know how, come and learn

Translators note
This song appears to be directed at ‘activists’ who Win Maw considers to be all mouth. The final line, ‘Come and learn’ sounds like an invitation to join him in jail, nicknamed ‘school’ by many political prisoners, given their interrupted educations.


Relevant information on the internet

The case of Win Maw has also been highlighted by International Pen:

An article in Irrawaddy describes Win Maw’s career:

Win Maw’s case is described in detail by The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners:


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