Burmese Indie Rock Goes Global

Darko C and Side Effect perform in Rangoon. (Photo: Ko Aye Say)

Darko C and Side Effect perform in Rangoon. (Photo: Ko Aye Say)

RANGOON— While multinational companies wait patiently for the opportunity to do business in Burma, young revolutionary music from this once Orwellian state has already gone international.

This year two new native indie rock albums have been made available via iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Now anyone around the globe can experience the underground music of this former pariah nation teetering on the verge of change.

“I just want to let the world know that we have this kind of music here and musically we have not been left behind,” said Darko C, the lead vocalist for alternative rock band Side Effect, in his Rangoon apartment.

The group released their debut album Rainy Night Dreams two months ago domestically after playing their first international gig at the Hello Asean music festival in Bali, Indonesia, last year. This made the foursome the first ever Burmese indie rock band to perform outside the country.

Not long after the local release, they posted their album on the internet to reach a wider audience.

“If your music goes international through online music stores, you just can’t predict how large an audience you will reach. It’s quite exciting for us because it is available, let’s say, universally,” added 31-year-old Darko C.

“I feel I have become international,” laughed Kya Pauk, of alternative rock band Blood Sugar Politik. Their first album One Second Sentence is available via iTunes and, contrary to any other made-in-Burma albums available online, ten of the 11 songs are in English.

“We just want to find out what we can achieve and have our music on the international market,” he said.

The tattoo-riddled singer believes the online availability of Burmese indie albums offers a window for anyone from Australia to Zimbabwe to learn about contemporary music in the secretive Southeast Asian country.

“There are no more barriers,” he explained. “The world’s got our music. What I think is most important, is if they want our music, it needs to be within their reach. That’s why we go on iTunes. Whether people buy it or not is another matter.”

Despite not being the very first international digital releases from the once-closed country, the pair is among only a fistful of Burmese albums that have already made their way onto online music stores.

And Darko C said posting an album online is the best alternative for those who do not have a record label for financial support.

As indie rock is not yet mainstream music in Burma, finding someone who wants to invest money remains difficult. To distribute an album, even locally, is prohibitively expensive for most wannabe rockers without extremely deep pockets.

“So if you have music but no money, just make a digital release,” suggests Darko C.

But there remains another minor obstacle. Anyone who wants to sell music through an online store needs to register a credit card via their service provider. Until now Burma has had no credit card system for international financial transactions.

“But it’s not much of a problem,” said Kya Pauk. “If you have friends abroad, just ask them to do it for you. I did the same.”

Both musicians said their creativity and ability is strong enough to develop an international following as their music is truly authentic. Plus they have never felt small despite being from a country that lags behind its neighbors in practically everything.

“From a sound engineering point of view, the technology we used in our recording may be out of date but people are only interested in your music. They don’t care about the recording system you used,” said Kya Pauk, pointing out that some of his favorite American bands became famous with low budget albums recorded in their kitchen or living room.

“The most important thing is your music must be good. We believe in what we have done,” he added.

“If our music sounds a little bit Burmese, it’s OK as we are Burmese. It could be something new to foreigners’ ears. But I can assure you, our music is not something disgraceful to our country,” said Darko C.

The Side Effect frontman is determined that if British or American bands can create world famous music, a Burmese band can do the same as they share the same level of dedication.

“To go international, you don’t need to be Kurt Cobain,” he added. “All you need is your own style.”

9 Responses to Burmese Indie Rock Goes Global

  1. Yeah! Go ahead. Nothing is impossible in this age. We want to hear this kind of news.

  2. yes Burma young, sing, and dance! we wanna joijn you too! how can I download your albums, nothing is mentioned after all!

  3. Well done! Let’s storm the world with our music. The old adage su tu pyu (glean, copy and create your own) remains an excellent piece of advice.

    • How pathetic! Burmese youth adopting low life Western culture, not being able to appreciate the fineer things of the West: such as Greek mythology, philosophy of science, classical music et. etc.

      What about Burmese culture? The beautiful Burm ese harp? The ‘chinlone’ game; so peaceful and elegant.

      Is Burma becoming the worst of both worlds? Third world poverty and corruption comnibed Western low life?

      Readers, please think carefully.

    • with our music? really, Moe Aung? Rock is drug and sex crazed Western music.
      do you ever listen to Mozart,Chopin, Strauss etc..? How strange, communist Chinese appreciate classical Western music whereas the Burmese so-called democrats, in delusion of grandeur, adopt low life, low class culture of the West.

      Burmese government must invest heavily in Burmese culture.
      Has anyone read the story of Burmese Harp by a Japanese? And Masushita’s gold. Stop betraying your won history, heritage and culture.

      Your King Schwebomin must be very disappointed. He loves Burmese traditions, culture and religion. Yet, he enjoys best of Europe; champagne, caviar, and most beautiful women of Europe. and travels all over Europe – and US.

      funny old world.

  4. The writer point out the very truth of Myanmar online credit card system ,however, blood sugar politik prove that how they can make their history 😀 what the fucking great that album available on iTunes !! it’s awesome

    • A Western was the picture of a celebrity and the picture of Saw Ohn-Nyan painted by Sir Gerald Kelly. Saw Ohn-Nyan of course was a Shan aristocrat. I can’t tell you who owns that picture now.
      Never mind. the point is that Saw Ohn-Nyahm won hands down in grace and beauty; the Western white woman clelbrity was considered real trash even by Westerners.

      These rock fellows are really low life and disgrace to Burmese culture. They will be good enough to clean toilets. Jeans with cuts are worn by women who want ot look like prostitutes.

      Rock culture is low life and part of low life Western cultural imperialism.

      Shame on those rock guys.
      Let’s hope Burmese youth will reject them and celebrate their own beautiful Burmese music, songs and dances.

  5. Dont think about international now my friends.Now aday,You can get MM passport so easy.Just take one hour flight from Yangon first.you will see the sawadee people level of music.Dont worry,dream come true.But,dont dreaming in the dream.Dont forget ,Chit San Maung is a hero in Myanmar.How about in USA?If you know him,ask him.I am a burmese and playing drum in oversea as a profession( not with oversea burmese band).Cheers and Wake up all brothers.

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