Shakira And Collective Soul's Hits, With A Burmese Twist | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Shakira And Collective Soul's Hits, With A Burmese Twist

Play associated audio

Despite decades of repression, and even isolation, the pop music scene in Myanmar is thriving. And it's not just any pop music: In many cases, carbon copies of American pop songs spring up with a Burmese twist.

Heather MacLachlan, a music professor at the University of Dayton, traveled to Myanmar a few years ago to study the country's traditional music, only to discover that most people were listening to pop. She writes about the phenomenon in her new book, Burma's Pop Music Industry: Creators, Distributors, Censors.

"A lot of Burmese people — and musicians especially — when they talk about what is a good song, what is a quality piece of work, what they say is, 'It's a song that sells a lot, a song that's commercially successful,' " MacLachlan says in an interview with NPR's Guy Raz. "That's how they judge artistic quality. So they know as well as everybody else that the best-selling music in the world comes out of the American and British pop-music industries. That's the music that they've very much taken to themselves, and it has become something that's really part of Burmese life since the early 1970s."

These bands do write original material, but the "copy songs" often feature different lyrics to subversively spread political messages.

"They sometimes write lyrics that are rather poetic, and they use different kinds of metaphors that can be interpreted as undermining the regime," MacLachlan says. "But they have to be very subtle because, of course, the music is censored and the censors immediately ban any kind of music that is overtly pro-democracy."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Scott Simon: 'We Don't Fully Grow Up' Until We Lose Our Parents

"There are some lessons that only grief and responsibility can teach us," says Weekend Edition host Scott Simon. His new memoir, Unforgettable, is about the life and death of his mother.
NPR

The Revival Of Lamb Ham: A Colonial Tradition Renewed

British colonialists brought lamb ham to America, where a sugar-cured, smoked variety became popular. Easier-to-cure pork ham eventually took its place, but now two Virginians are bringing it back.
NPR

Indiana Law: Sorting Fact From Fiction From Politics

The culture wars are always percolating beneath the surface in presidential politics. And as is often the case in controversies, the facts have become muddled and conflated.
WAMU 88.5

Uber Tweaks Airport Pickups To Create 'Virtual Queue'

Faced with rules that prevent its drivers from hanging out on airport property waiting for rides, Uber is tweaking its system for ride-hailing pick-ups at Reagan National and Dulles International airports.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.