Interview

Reggae Artist Saw Poe Kwar: ‘We Can’t Find Peace Anywhere, Except in People’s Hearts’  

By Tin Htet Paing 12 August 2016

Burmese reggae singer and peace advocate Saw Poe Kwar announced his “May Myanmar Be Peaceful” concert tour in conflict-affected areas of the country on Thursday. The 48-year-old ethnic Karen Reggae singer and songwriter has produced five albums including his latest one, titled “Go Rest On a Big Branch” and believes that his music can help plant “peace seeds” in young people’s hearts throughout conflict-torn areas of the country.

On the first stop of the tour, he will travel to northern Shan State—Kyaukme, Lashio, Kutkai, Muse, Pyin Oo Lwin and Mandalay—from August 27 to September 4, and hopes to reach audiences between seven and 20 years old. His next stops will take him to Karen, Kachin and Arakan states.

The Irrawaddy spoke with Saw Poe Kwar on Thursday about his peace concert tour, his definition of peace, how he relates peace to children and how he is going to plant “peace seeds” in young people’s hearts.

How did you come up with the idea for the “May Myanmar Be Peaceful” peace concert tour?

I have had this idea for a long time. I want to end racial and religious bias among our generation and in our communities—which cannot find peace. I want future generations to be based on the concepts of humanity and peace. It will make solidarity easier and they will be able to overcome obstacles together if they stick to the attitude that everyone is a Burmese national.

What I mean is that I want them to leave everything else behind. We keep spinning our wheels but we haven’t been able to eradicate the root cause of the problem. I believe that children are the most important key to the future. These children could rebuild peace and that’s how I got the idea.

Why is your target audience seven to 20 years old?

I target that age group, but anyone can come and enjoy the concert, free of charge.

Why that age range though?

I have a better relationship with children. I am more familiar with them. In my experience, children learn and absorb things best. This age range is very good for planting seeds. If we explain things very carefully, things can stick with them for their entire lives. They are similar to good soil. After this age, people become mature and it is more difficult to expose them to new things. That’s why I target this age range.

Your first round of the tour will be from August 27 to September 4. Why did you choose these dates?

I will start my tour on August 27 in Kyaukme. I chose these dates because it was the most convenient time for my band “One Love” and our hosts in the area.

The 21st Century Panglong Conference will begin on August 31. Is this just a coincidence?

Yes, it’s just a coincidence. I have had the idea of a peace tour for a while. Now it’s happening and this is just the first stop.

Why did you choose to go to northern Shan State first?

People who advocate for peace want to expose either armed conflict or religious conflict. I wanted to expose both. I want to eradicate both in the next generation and I want them to be resistant to armed, religious and racial conflict. I am often invited to perform for internally displaced persons in northern Shan State. I thought that this should be the first stop so that other regions would know how I would perform and what my intentions would be for future stops on the tour.

How do you relate “peace” and “youth”?

Adolescence is like being in a boxing ring. It is a fight for life. Childhood is about learning things. Adulthood is about getting out of the boxing ring and teaching about the experiences from inside the ring. People have to fight for their lives based on what they learn as children. Childhood is the most important part of someone’s life. It shapes their future. I want youth to learn a sense of peace during childhood.

 What is your definition of peace?

Peace is an essential thing—the most important thing—for the existence of the world. Without peace, we can’t do anything. Peace has been here since the beginning of the world, but it is gone because of human selfishness. We can’t find peace anywhere, except in people’s hearts. If there is love in people’s hearts, I believe we can easily find peace elsewhere. Love is something we should plant in children’s hearts.

What is your expectation for the tour?

In these regions, some people have been brainwashed with stereotypes regarding race and religion. These hatreds have existed in their hearts historically. I hope to reduce that hatred to some extent.

 Who will join you on the tour?

It will just be me and my band “One Love.” That’s only because of time constraints and scheduling. I want to set an example and I think other artists and singers will join me at a later date.

 What is your opinion of Burma’s current peace process?

It’s beyond my understanding. I do what I can do for peace and I only focus on my part. I am optimistic toward anyone—not only the current government—who acts with the intention of building genuine peace.

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