Myanmar is a very musical country. In any town, in any village, you will often find young men playing acoustic guitars outside homes and businesses, or boys and girls of all ages singing songs as they ride bikes down narrow lanes or walk to school. Everyone it seems, has a song in their heart or one stuck in their head.
We are not currently selling CDs or records at Chinlone Books, but we love listening to music and encourage visitors to explore the wide variety of music from Myanmar and Shan State. There are shops in Mandalay and Yangon (see details below) that sell CD and even cassettes!
One of our favorite current artists is the Mandalay-based singer-songwriter known as Linn Linn (sometimes spelled Lynn Lynn). Even if you can't understand the Burmese lyrics, the listener can't help but be moved by the powerful emotion in his singing and the melodic tunes on his albums. Both his Iron
Butterfly and Sin Za
Ba albums are highly recommended, as is his new recording, Mee Ein K’Byar, roughly translated as “Lantern Poem”. On this album he sings with Chit Thu Wai, a talented singer who also happens to be his wife. The album features another memorable batch of tuneful songs with Chit Thu Wai’s vibrant singing meshing well with Lin Lin’s own expressive vocals. In addition to Lin Lin’s deft guitar playing, there are more piano parts on this new album. You can find Linn Linn CDs at shops in Mandalay and Yangon, but sadly not in Nyaungshwe.
Another very popular new singer-songwriter is Wai La, After the success of his "New Own Tune Songs" in 2015 he has just released a new album with his band Runner and featuring guest vocals from Po Po Heather. Another very tuneful and very rockin' collection of songs!
Another one of our favorite CDs is a compilation, Guitars of the Golden Triangle: Folk & Pop Music of Myanmar. This collection is described as “Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Burma)” on the cover, but the liner notes that come with the CD have a much better description, calling it an “unbelievable collection of garage and psychedelic rock, raw folk, blues ballads, and country-western styled music … a product of Shan and Pa-O musicians hailing from the early 1970s.” I’m not sure if “unbelievable” is the best term to describe this music, but it sure is a lot of fun to listen to. If the lively strains of “A Girl Among Girls” by Lashio Thein Aung doesn’t get you out of your seat and dancing on the nearest table, then all hope is lost! Seriously, the songs on here are a blast, all of them exuding an irrepressible zest and vitality … the same sort of spirit that you’ll find among the lovely people in Shan State.
Among the most famous bands in Myanmar is Iron Cross, a collective that includes ace musicians such as Lay Phyu, Myo Gyi, and Chit San Maung. Iron Cross play a melodic brand of rock, mixing original material with cover songs. Imagine Burmese versions of songs by the Bee Gees, Dan Fogelberg and Bryan Adams. Hey, it's actually pretty darned good!
One very good shop to buy Burmese music on CD --- and even cassette tapes! --- is Man Thiri in Mandalay. The shop is located on 26th Street (on the block between 82 and 83 streets). In Yangon there are also several shop that still sell CDs, including one in Scott's (Bogyoke Aung San) Market.