Category Archives: History Matters

NURTURING RURAL FUTURES THROUGH THE FESTIVITY OF SIRISH MAHOTSAV

NURTURING RURAL FUTURES THROUGH THE FESTIVITY OF SIRISH MAHOTSAV

The Tea Tribes are integral to the cultures of Assam and West Bengal, and it is this amalgamation of cultures that gives the modern day its distinctive richness. After three years of success, in this fourth year of celebration, it is a moment of pride as the cultural uniqueness of the community is brought forth through the vibrant festivity of ‘Sirish Mahotsav’.

Sirish is the answer to the calling for preservation, promotion, and propagation of the various cultural forms of the TeaTribes. The contribution of the Tea Tribes to the culture and economy has been immense, and Sirish is a medium to enhance and propagate the art, dance and drama forms of this very integral fiber of Assam. We need to use Sirish as a landmark to strengthen the bonds between people and allow the hearts of the community to express this unique cultural heritage that we are so blessed with.

Since the 1830s and over 8 generations, the Tea Tribes have been fundamental to the scaffoldings of Rural Assam;creating bright futures in these remote but breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. It is in our best interest to promote the creation of sustainable futures in these rural locales through the Rural Futures programme of our sister-concern, the Balipara Foundation.

Our collaborative efforts can bring dynamic changes in upholding the traditions and integrating a sense of pride in the culture of the Tea Tribes and lead to the development of holistic, self-sufficient and empowered communities.

Sirish Mahotsav is a successful example of fostering Rural Futures in the Eastern Himalayas. Through the ‘Rural Futures Framework’ launched at the Eastern Himalayan NaturenomicsTM Forum in 2017, we aim to catalyze conservation efforts through the designing of holistic models for human-centric, community-based conservation to create social-environmental and economic interdependence.

By Ranjit Barthakur,
Founding Chairman,
Myanmar Matters

Empowering Rural Futures through the festivity of Sirish in Assam

Bagan: A Jewel of Southeast Asia

Bagan

Lying on the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy river – 150 kilometers south-west of Mandalay, the vast plain of Bagan is a home to thousands of Buddhist temples that combine to form one of the richest archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and an extraordinary testament to the religious devotion of Myanmar’s people and rulers over the centuries.

Along with offering views quite unlike anywhere else on the earth, one of the beauties of spending time in what is now officially called the Bagan Archaeological Zone is that, once you have paid your K25,000 entry fee, you have the freedom to explore this fascinating area at your own leisure. Bagan is in general more-touristy and possibly less of the ‘real Myanmar’ than other parts of the country, but despite obvious sales ploys such as a multitude of children selling hand-drawn postcards, you will rarely suffer the hard sell – and the locals remain warm and friendly.

An Ancient Kingdom

BaganBagan (formerly known as Pagan) was the capital of a large influential kingdom from the ninth to the thirteenth century. This kingdom was the first to unify the area that is now Myanmar, establishing the Burmese culture and ethnicity as well as Theravada Buddhism in the region. Over this period of rule, as the city and kingdom grew in stature, over ten thousand temples were built on the surrounding plains.

Mongol invasions eventually led to the fall of the Kingdom of Pagan, the city was reduced to a small settlement, never to recover its past glory. The area did, however, remain a destination for Buddhist pilgrimage. A few hundred temples were added between the thirteenth and twentieth century, but the extensive earthquake damage over the years meant only 2,200 temples remained, in differing states of repair.

Indeed, over the last five hundred years, many of the existing temples have been renovated – a process continuing till date, has yielded mixed results. Many say that Bagan has not attained the UNESCO World Heritage site status due to the Myanmar government’s insensitive updates in the 1990s, although it is once again being considered. However, the area is large enough and there remains so much of what is original still to see, that none of this stops the area from being a unique wonder to behold.

Bagan

A Vast and Diverse Area

Each of the 2,200 plus temples, stupas and pagodas has its own unique story to tell, and many can be freely explored inside and out. Some are locked, but even if you are traveling around without a guide, you can sometimes find a friendly local nearby to open them for you. The most spectacular time to see the temples is when the sun dramatically rises and falls over the plain at dawn or dusk.

A large earthquake hit Bagan in 2016 and caused significant damage to some of the temples, but ironically, much of it was to the more modern additions to the then ancient structures. Many believe that the quake may actually end up encouraging more sensitive development in the area, and the vast majority of temples are now once again free to be explored.

Exploring the Temples and Plain

There are a number of ways to explore the area:

  • By Bicycle

This is the cheapest way to get around, and allows the most freedom to do as you choose; the plain is too large to explore by foot, but getting around by bike allows you to get to most of the temples. Almost all hotels and guesthouses offer them for hire, as do various restaurants and shops on the popular ‘Restaurant Row’ in the town of Nyaung U.

You can also cheaply hire an electric bike – through on the flat plains of Bagan, the advantages over a bicycle are minimal (tourists are not allowed to use motorbikes in the area).

You can pick up a free tourist map showing you the main points of interest; although you are unlikely to get seriously lost, it is worth planning your trip in advance to make the most of your time. Bear in mind that it can get hot and dusty when cycling, particularly during hotter times of the year, so carrying water is essential and helps you beat the heat. You can pick up refreshments at the many restaurants and tea shops in the area.

  • Horse and Cart Guided Tour

This is the most romantic way to tour the temples. Most drivers can speak minimum English and have the profound knowledge of better routes around the temples along with few hidden gems. However, horses have to follow more well-trodden tracks than bicycles, as there are areas they cannot reach. Prices range from K15,000 to K25,000 for a day, depending on the season.

  • By Car

If you want to avoid the heat and dust completely, take an air-conditioned taxi or minibus. This is naturally the most comfortable way to get around, and most drivers speak some English. Cars will usually cost between $20 and $50 per day, depending on the season and how far you travel.

  • By Hot Air Balloon

The most exotic and spectacular way to see the temples is to head to the sky. Trips cost USD285 per person and offer a unique view of the plain and temples. You should always book well in advance, particularly at popular times of the year such as Christmas and the New Year (the ballooning season runs from October to April).

Taking two or more days and using different forms of transport can be the best way to explore the plains. If you see the highlights by horse and cart or hot air balloon, then following it up with a bike ride can be the ideal way to find the specific temples that have taken your fancy.

Bagan

A Guide to the Top Temples

The best approach to explore temples with a guide, but you can also get some advice from a friendly local and start exploring on your own. There are some sites that should not be missed, which include:

  • The large and the beautifully maintained Ananda Pagoda – A huge festival takes place here in late December, which celebrates the traditional lives of farmers in the area; locals come from surrounding villages in their decorated bullock carts and camp on the plain. Theatrical troupes provide entertainment, and on the final daybreak, there are formal alms given to monks who live in the nearby monastery.
  • The Gawdaw Palin Pagoda which sits on the banks of the Irrawaddy River
  • The Myoe Daung Monastery – a beautiful teak-built structure and the imposing Tharabar Gate in Old Bagan.
  • The distinctive red brick Dhammayangyi temple, covering the largest area of all the temples in the area.
  • The tallest structure on the plain, The That Byin Nyu temple.
  • Amazing sunrise and sunset views from the Shwesandaw Pagoda and Pyathada pagodas. As of the new season starting in October 2017, there will also be a number of new hilltop viewpoints to stop overcrowding on the temples, and hopefully climbing on the temples will be restricted.
    Of all the pagodas in Bagan, the Shwezigon Pagoda in Nyaung U is a traditional Myanmar temple complex.

Away from the towns and most famous temples, exploring off beaten tracks can be a lot of fun; the pagodas that can be found east of Nyaung U, along with the banks of the Irrawaddy, are a good example. Here you will find open temples with beautifully preserved interiors, from the top of which you will see fantastic views over the river – and hardly other tourists.

For more background, history and more impressive collection of artifacts from the region, head to the Bagan Archaeological Museum, located off the main road near the river bank in Old Bagan (entry$5).

Content and Photo Courtesy – Marcus Allender, Founder, Go-Myanmar.com

From the Land of Shan State

Shan State

Shan State is one of the most popular States in Myanmar for tourists, not only because of its cuisine, but also because of the different attraction it offers. It is located in the Middle Eastern part of Myanmar, and its capital Taunggyi is famous for the Hot-air Balloon Festival.

It is also famous for the beautiful Inle Lake, where the floating gardens, the fishermen village and the unique way of one-leg paddling will fascinate you.

For adventurers, Hsipaw and Kalaw are two great cities to be in touch with nature and do trekking while Kakku Pagodas are a must visit the religious site.

If Asian food is one of the best and most varied in the world, imagine a country with its own delicious cuisine plus a healthy dose of Asian ingredients and cooking styles. Burmese cuisine is also very healthy, favoring fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish products like fish sauce and fish paste and fermented seafood.

Here are three of the most popular and authentic Shan State dishes:

1. Shan Noodles

Shan Noodles

Shan noodles are one of the most popular dishes in Myanmar. You will find them in every teahouse and restaurant. You can have them either as a soup or as a salad, and in both cases, the sauce is the same. The noodles are different. The ones used for the soup are sticky and flat rice noodles, whereas the ones used for the salad are thick and round rice noodles.

To prepare the sauce, they blend tomatoes and then add salt, sugar, oil, sugar cane sauce and paprika. Then everything goes in a pot to boil.

2. Shan Yellow Rice Cake with Tomato Sauce

Shan Yellow RiceShan Yellow RiceThis is one of the dishes, when tasted, gets glued to your memory and taste buds forever.

For cooking the rice, there is no trick, just wash it, add water, turmeric powder for the yellow color, salt and a little bit of chicken powder.

There are two different tomato sauces, one to mix with the rice and the other to put on top of the rice cake.

For the first one, cut tomatoes in half, add salt and cook them in a pot until you have a sauce. Leave to cool. Remove the tomato skin. Then, you stir the yellow rice to make it a little bit sticky and mix it with this tomato sauce. Before pouring all the tomato sauce, separate some in a bowl and add turmeric oil. Use this mix to wet your hands and season the rice cake while you shape it.

The second tomato sauce to add on top of the cake is the key. To prepare it, heat oil and add onions, garlic, fermented soya bean powder, dried chili powder and turmeric powder. Then, add grained tomatoes, salt and chicken powder. At this point, you can also add coriander or spring onion and chicken or pork.

There is always another side sauce to add on top of the cake, turmeric and garlic sauce. Just heat oil, fry garlic and then add turmeric powder. Its crunchy-garlic touch is amazing. And any cracker like pork skin, bean or rice goes perfectly well with this dish.

3. Black Sesame Seed and Sticky Rice Cake (KhorPoat)

Shan KhorPoat

This is a very traditional snack in Shan State made with purple rice, black and round sesame seeds and salt.

It is really interesting to see how they prepare it. They, place the cooked rice into a stone “bowl” situated on the ground and add black round sesame seeds (already mashed) and salt. Then there is a “wooden machine” that smashes and mixes it to form the dough.

To sell it, they separate the dough into small portions of the same size and wrap it in the banana leaf so that it doesn’t dry.

The most popular and tasty way of having it is fried or barbequed, although you can also eat it raw. It is usually eaten in winters and served with brown sugar or jaggery on the side. It only costs between 100-200 kyats ($0.1 – 0.2).

Content and Picture Courtesy – Mr. Juan Gallardo, Writer at Myanmar Travel Essentials

Juan has traveled extensively to discover everything about Burmese cuisine, tasting traditional dishes cooked for him by the locals. It is these amazing dishes, the warmth of the people and the beauty of the land that is captured in his book “Delicious Myanmar”.

Longwa Village : One House, Two Countries

The state of Nagaland in India is home to a wondrous phenomenon that one would rarely see anywhere else in the world. In this state lies a village called Longwa which has a house that can be considered to spread over two countries – India and Myanmar. Towards Myanmar, this house falls in the Mon state as the boundary between India and Myanmar passes across this village and divides this house into two parts which fall into two parts. This house is owned by the hereditary chief or the king of the Konyak Naga tribe known as “The Angh”. The Angh of Longwa village has 60 wives and he rules over more than 70 villages extended up to Myanmar.

Traditional Naga Tribal Beads

A Chief of Konyak Tribe in his Traditional Outfit
A Chief of Konyak Tribe in his Traditional Outfit

The people living in this village move freely between India and Myanmar and do not need a visa. Even one of the sons of this village’s chief has joined the army of Myanmar. So, technically these villagers have dual citizenship for both India and Myanmar. Besides the chief, some other Konyak families have their kitchen in Myanmar while they sleep in India. The Konyak tribe, which lives in Longwa village, holds the largest numbers among the sixteen officially recognized tribes in Nagaland. The Konyak Naga speaks the Tibetan-Myanmarese dialect with every village having a self-modified version. Some people speak another version too which is known as the Nagamese language and is a mixture of Naga and Assamese.

Traditional Naga Tribal Beads
Traditional Naga Tribal Beads

The Konyak tribe is very famous for their tattooed inked faces and they always wear some traditional jewelry. Most of the men wear a brass skull necklace and they still use hornbill beaks, elephant tusks, horns, and skulls to decorate their houses. The arrival of Christianmissionaries has somewhat helped to bring the people living in this region closer to each other. The religion has now become the cohesive bond between the Nagas and has helped them to refrain from constant fighting with each other.

In the village of Longwa, there is a feeling of oneness among people and boundaries between two different countries seem to have dissolved. The emotional connect between the Nagas living on both sides of the border is very strong. We all know that boundaries were not created by God but are a human intervention. This village shows that it is possible to create a world where boundaries do not create any conflict. This is a very important lesson that we can learn from Longwa village.

– Ranjit Barthakur
Founding Chairman
Myanmar Matters

Burmese Food could be the next Global Culinary Phenomenon

Myanmar’s rise from the ashes of political turmoil, cultural stagnancy and severe isolation is a monumental historic feat. The ushering in of democracy has adequately released it from the unsparing shackles of military suppression and has catapulted it onto the expansive path of progress, aggressive aspirations, development and integration with the mainstream global canvas.

Htamin Jin, Burmese Rice
Htamin Jin, Burmese Rice

Buried in its shadowy past has been its most delectable and distinct food experience, popularly known as the Burmese cuisine. Inhabited by various ethnicities and nationalities, Burmese food specialty varies from region to region; each region serving a specific delicacy with their own recipe and style of cooking. In effect, a trek through Myanmar’s coast towards the inland or traversing the northern and southern regions of Myanmar are sure to delight one’s epicurean journey.

An authentic Burmese palette blends in varied flavors – hot, sweet, sour and salty, by serving multiple side dishes and accompaniments along with the main dish. For example, bitter leaves, dried chilies and salty fish paste may accompany a mild curry. It is this richness that makes it so unique and appetizing, and worthy of being placed on the global cuisine frontier.

Mohinga
Mohinga

Situated on the crossroads of gigantic civilizations of China and India, and bordering the countries of Laos, Thailand and Bangladesh, Myanmar has naturally and inadvertently acquired their distinct characters and culinary influence, while exploring and retaining its own novelty. From the gamut of Chinese dumplings and boiled vegetables to the Indian inspired curries, samosa and biryani, Myanmar staple food has remained constant for years: rice.

From driving the country’s economy as being world’s largest exporter, rice has become the bedrock diet for many people in Myanmar. Htamin Jin in Burmese, rice is usually served with curry, soup and multiple condiments that a Burmese cuisine is characterized of. Either boiled or relished as flat noodles, from being a breakfast or a light snack to being savored as a dessert on the streets, it remains the backbone of any Burmese meal.

Rice noodles or locally known as Mohinga or Mohinka. It is a favorite dish among the locals, enjoyed as breakfast and also as a filler light snack in between meals. These round rice noodles are served in fish paste and shallot broth with a hint of onion garlic adding to the flavor. Topped with veggies, boiled eggs, sliced banana pith and akyaw fritters, it is usually sprinkled with dried chili, lime and coriander. Its preparation varies throughout the region, depending upon the availability of ingredients.

Laphet Thoke
Laphet Thoke

 A salad for Burmese people is an aggregation and experimentation with diverse elements. An unusual mixture of everything which is crunchy, salty, spicy and sour is concocted as a salad. Laphet Thoke, the most popular and thoroughly enjoyed salad constitutes pickled green tea leaves interfused with amalgamation of sauces, and crunchy and sour assortments; sesame, shrimps, ginger, lime, fish sauce, peanut oil, peas, nuts etcetera. It can be served as a snack or accompany a plate of rice.

Nan gyi Thoke
Nan gyi Thoke

Nan gyi Thoke, dry rice noodles in the shape of spaghetti is also a salad based dish, relished with chicken, fish curry and garnished with chickpea flour, chilies and turmeric.

Shan Noodles
Shan Noodles

The Northern interiors of Myanmar are famous for Shan Noodles, reflecting country’s predominant Buddhist group’s delectable food trails. Served in chicken or pork broth, it is seasoned with garlic oil and sesame with pickled vegetables. In comparison to southern or coastal Burmese noodles, Shan noodles are bland and simple in texture.

Khow Suey
Khow Suey

Another dish that exhibits Shan specialty and deserves to be mentioned is fish rice or commonly called Shan style rice. Served with the sides of raw garlic and leek roots, it’s oily and is cooked in turmeric.

Curried noodle soup, Khow Suey, is another dish fundamental to Burmese cuisine. Its ingredients involve coconut milk, curried chicken and egg noodles. Like any other Burmese dish, this too gets accompanied by disparate condiments. However, as per the availability of ingredients, its recipe can be tailored to one’s preference.

Tea houses cannot be given a miss while talking about the eclectic Burmese cuisine. These are the small and scattered tea and snack hubs brimming with voices greeting political affairs and social customs with great gusto and zest. Bursting with a medley of Chinese, Indian and local dishes; noodles, steam buns, samosas, the local tradition of tea shops have evolved as an integral part of the Burmese cuisine.

Burmese desserts, colloquially termed as moun, usually gets its sweet flavor from its corresponding ingredients than sugar itself; sticky rice, fruits, grated coconuts act as sweeteners. Moreover, they are relished as snacks like semolina flour with coconut milk, pancakes with raisons etcetera.

If the food trajectory of Myanmar feeds the nonvegetarians quite sufficiently, vegetarians are served adequately well too with fresh vegetables and fruits available abundantly. Also, the Buddhist sanctity prevalent in the country makes vegan diet an essential part of everyday life of Myanmar.

With Burmese bounty ready to be served on the world platter, and geared to exhibit its vast regional spread through plethora of its native treats and cuisine, the World awaits Myanmar’s food treasures to satiate its South East Asian appetite in glory all renewed and rediscovered.

New season, new festival

A child plays with traditional toys. Thiri Lu/ The Myanmar Times

To mark the coming of the new season, Thuwana Stadium hosted an inaugural spring festival last weekend. The event was abuzz with music, food and cultural activities.

Many other festivals are held in Yangon but spring festivals are intended to highlight Myanmar traditions.

They are usually observed with traditional dancing, traditional fashion and traditional handicrafts. The Thuwana Stadium celebration also had 21st century elements – contemporary designers showed off their wares as a photo booth snapped away.

Lynn Whut Hmone, director of event organiser Stellar Seven, said it gave the chance for families and friends to embrace the new season.

Yangon Gallery used the occasion to show off an ancient loom, traditional palm necklaces (htan yaut puddi) and even fish toys (htan yaut fish).

Artist Soe Win Nyein, owner of Acme Myanmar Souvenirs said events like this were important in promoting and celebrating traditional arts and handicrafts.

“Young people in Myanmar are increasingly less concerned about these things.”

Traditional wares on display.Traditional wares on display.

“And grass roots producers do not have too many opportunities to get their wares out there.”

Soe Win Nyein added that Myanmar should look to Thailand in how it supports and embraces local producers for a modern market.

Dr Aung Hein, owner of Toy Box Myanmar echoed these concerns – saying he hoped that Myanmar children who grow up in this day and age still embrace Myanmar toys.

“I think children still like traditional toys but there are not many places to buy them,” Dr Aung Hein said.

Artist May Moe Thu, owner of Pho Wa Hand Painted Cotton Products said the foreign tourist market was still not tapped as well as it could be.

Visitor Dr Kyaw Han Thar Myint said it was fun to see so many traditional elements on display in the one place.

“I loved the traditional dance stage, especially the hna par thwar [a Myanmar traditional dance] and the Shan sword dance.”

“It’s great to find out more about Myanmar culture.”

Songkran Festival

 Of all the feasts and festivals in Thailand, which are many, the Songkran Festival is the most striking, for it is widely observed not only in this country but also in Burma, Cambodia and the Lao State.

Songkran is a Sanskrit word in Thai form which means the entry of the sun into any sign of the Zodiac. But the Songkran in this particular instance is when the sun enters the sign of Aries or the Ram. Its full name is Maha Songkran or Major Songkran to distinguish it from the other ones. But the people call it simply the Songkran for it is the only one they know and in which they take interest. It is their traditional New Year when they can enjoy their holidays to the full with no economic hindrance. Songkran is a fixable feast on the solar calender. It begins on the 13th April and ends on the 15th April, but occasionally in certain years on the 16th April. The Songkran is in fact the celebration of the vernal equinox similar to those of the Indian Holi Festival, the Chinese Ching Ming, and the Christian Festival of Easter. The beginning of spring when the sun crosses the equator is now on the 21st of March which is due to the precession of the equinox. The Songkran Festival is in a certain sense like April Fool’s Day, when the maids of the village play pranks on any gallant who happens to pass by their way. He will be caught and bound by the united strength of the maids and they will daub him with blacking.

Information from: “Essays on Cultural Thailand” by Office of the National Culture Commission.

Myanmar’s Explosive Fire Balloon Festival

Myanmar's Exclosive Fire Balloon Festival

The Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival sets the skies of central
Myanmar ablaze every year. These celebrations are a part of
Tazaungdaing Festival of Light which is celebrated in November each year to mark the end of Myanmar’s rainy season. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful fireworks celebrations in the world and also the most dangerous.Brightly colored balloons with hundreds of homemade fireworks woven into their frames were sent soaring into the night sky, showering down cascades of sparks onto adoring crowds.These balloons are loaded with explosives and they regularly crash to the ground. It causes panic among the crowds but visitors still stay because they believe that’s the sight is worth the risks.

People travel to the capital of Shan state from various parts of
Myanmar and even from various parts of the world to watch these
celebrations. The tradition of this way of celebrating is rooted in
Buddhism but the hot air balloon contest itself was started by British colonialists in the late 19th century. So, many people are present that it looks like a whole sea of people. Many first timers are amazed and say that they have never seen so many people at one place before. It is really scary when the fireworks fly right at you and sometimes people die too. In 2014, three people were killed when a balloon crashed onto spectators below. A young child also died when a balloon was blown into the family’s tent.Balloon work hard for months to create the most brilliant spectacle of light in order to
win the contest and then they see all their work explode and disappear in minutes.

Besides fireworks and spectacular balloons this festival offers various other exciting experiences as well. Here you can witness a human powered ferris wheel at the festival’s fairground where workers scamper across the 50-foot high rickety structure like spider monkeys, using their body weight to send it spinning around at extraordinary speed. Some of them dangle from the bars as the ride hurtles toward the ground, while some others swing between the bars upside down as the wheel turns.

PEOPLE AND LIFESTYLE_02

PEOPLE AND LIFESTYLE_03

A Visit To Myanmar Temples: Experience Holiness and Thanaka

A Visit To Myanmar Temples- Experience Holiness and Thanaka
Shwezigon Temple – Bagan, Myanmar

Myanmar is a Buddhist majority country where Theravada Buddhism is the most practiced religious tradition. This is a
place where pagodas, monasteries, and various other historical structures related to Buddhism thrive in abundance.
When you walk around in Myanmar you will get to see the stunning site of monks dressed in their traditional red robes all
around. In Myanmar, each male is expected to serve as a monk twice in his life. The first time a person joins a monastery
as a novice and the second time he is expected to become an ordained monk.

RELIGION_02

RELIGION_01

The people of Myanmar show their true love and respect for Buddha and his symbols not only by keeping him and his teachings in their heart but also through their actions. Buddhists of Myanmar buy gold leaves and apply them to pagodas and Buddhist statues.The magnificent gold-plated Shwedagon Pagoda can be seen shining
from anywhere in Yangon. Both rich and poor are equally devoted Buddhists and they believe that building pagodas is a very noble
act. Rich people often fund the building of these pagodas. When pagodas get old or damaged they are quickly restored to their original splendor. Numerous people visit pagodas every day and they always follow the rule of going barefoot.

RELIGION_03

Besides the pagodas and monks another thing that you will immediately notice in Myanmar is a lot of people walking around with their faces painted with a yellowish powder. This yellowish substance is called thanaka and it is an inherent part of Myanmar’s culture. When you visit a Buddhist temple, the attendant there might apply it to your face as a ritual. When applied to skin it feels cool and gives a wonderful fragrance. The people of Myanmar believe it is good for the skin and it matches their complexion very well.

Guide To The Growing Punk Music Scene

Names in Myanmar Punk

punk crowd

Punk music is on the rise in Myanmar, especially in Yangon. There are no specific ‘punk’ venues but the scene is large enough that several spaces hold concerts when organized. Rough Cut, Pansodan Scene, Pin Lel Studio and of course People’s Park. The #WDGAF show at People’s Park last Friday was a predominately a punk lineup that attracted a large attendance despite the ban on alcohol sales past 10pm. What is known as ‘underground music’ has united young musicians from all different genres. In light of the popular concert, MYANMORE has made a list of some local punk bands that people should check out if interested in exploring this growing section of youth culture. You can catch some of these up-and-coming groups at Pin Lel Studio in North Dagon on March 26th. Check Myanmore.com for more information

Side Effect

Arguably the most famous indie punk bank in Myanmar, Side Effect took the stage singing about freedom and socio-political issues. They have been active for about a decade and during that time they have performed shows in Berlin, Germany and the South by SouthWest festival in the USA, giving them international popularity. They are not a pure punk band, they also mix with garage rock, power pop and back-to-the-basics rock n roll – a style similar to the Strokes or the Libertines.

Big Bag

Big Bag is the first local Punk Band to breakthrough and attracted thousands last Friday as the headliner for the #WDGAF concert

Big Bag is the first local Punk Band to breakthrough and attracted thousands last Friday as the headliner for the #WDGAF concert. Myanmar Teenagers were the main fans of the band at first as they introduced an alternative style of music, which ultimately let Myanmar youth explore a new genre. The lead singer and guitarist Kyar Pout started in the town of Hlaing and has since then brought his music to Yangon. His bandmates Ye Zaw Myo, bassist, and Mung Boih, drummer, help write much of the music and are featured as part of the band’s identity.

Skunx

Skunx is quickly becoming one of the top bands in Myanmar by integrating punk with melodies reminiscent with hip-hop. Imagine Anthrax meets Crystal Castles. The group opened for Big Bag this past weekend and did not disappoint the packed public park. The Mandalay group formed from two discontinued bands, the lead singer being Eugene Skunx. Skunx writes songs about every topics that most young people can relate to while also touching on social issues. The songs cover politics, lifestyle, education and even sex. They target Burmese youth with the goal of giving hope to those who feel stuck.

No U Turn

No U-Turn is one of the most active bands in Yangon, they played at People’s Park last Friday and will also be playing at Jam It! Kulture in a couple weeks.  They have a ska sound that may remind some of the American band, Rancid. The group has been playing and making music in the underground scene for over 10 years and have released three albums. His long standing presence in Myanmar has given the band has quite a following that know the lyrics to his songs.

The Myth

The Myth was founded and currently led by female singer Ja Som in 2011. They identify their genre as Pop/Rock whilst adding occasional hard rock guitar licks into their songs. They debuted their first EP album in 2014 “One More Chance” by releasing it on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Myanmar Music Store. The album consists of 6 songs including the  title track ‘One More Chance’, which later became a hit. One More Chance has been featured on numerous TV channels of Myanmar. Currently, they are working on their LP album which will continue with their feminist trend.

The Rebel Riot

The Rebel Riot is the band that came into existence after the Saffron Revolution. The main reason for the formation of the band to fight oppression and corruption. The band uses music as a medium to fight against injustice. Their songs, Puppet Society (2013) and [Censored] Religious Rules (2014) highlight the problems they see in the country. Rebel Riot is now a three member group that have travelled throughout Southeast Asia.

Kultureshock

Influenced by Swedish punk groups such as Anti Cimex, Skitslickers, Avskum, Moderad Likvktation and Totalitar, this crust punk band is the first band to ever play such kind of music. Formed in 2009, Kultureshock played local underground gigs all over. The song “Urban Rubbish” talks about how the people are living under the oppressed government and how low-life people are considered to be “trash”.They are considered a D-Beat band, meaning that their message is anti-war and anarchist.

Myanmar Metal: Metal and Punk are not the same thing. But there are some concerts that play both. 

Nightmare

Nightmare is a death-metal force not to be reckoned with. The band started as a group of friends who shared a similar taste in metal music. They got their influences from American bands such as Suicide Silence and Lamb of God. Their music is not typical metal music, which is usually about violence or horror. They focus on broken families and the dangers of satiating greed. They aim to give people with troubles a sense of self-respect and something that could light up in their dark times.

Last Days of Beethoven
Last Days of Beethoven is a death metal band made up of five people that bring an end to Beethoven’s “pleasant music”. They mainly sing songs that are about perseverance and not giving up in the face of problems. The songs preach to the people to be bogged down within religious and ethnic conflicts. While being a metal band, LDB sees their message being about peace and harmony.