Here’s a track from Burma, also known as Myanmar. [According to a variety of sources, the name Myanmar was given to the country by the military junta in 1989, and many still prefer the name Burma (including the Library of Congress Subject Authority headings).]
Burmese records are difficult to find. I only have a few, and the majority are in pretty dicey shape. This piece was recorded by the Indian branch of Columbia records ca. 1932 or so. It starts off a little rough then improves – but the music is really evocative. It sounds like an interesting conglomeration of Southeast Asian and South Asian musical styles. The instrument being played is the Burmese harp, known as the saung, the national instrument of Burma, and an ancient one, possibly dating to around the 8th century. You can also detect a subtle accompaniment of accordion and percussion.
Thanks to reader Thuya, we know that the singer is singing about how in the summer, after a long monsoon season, flowers are in bloom, and the wavy horizon of mountains is in view. Apparently, the color and smell of each flower is described by the singer.
Ma E Mi – Thai Rhyme with Sound
I don’t believe there’s much of early Burmese music on CD – though there are great tracks both on R. Crumb’s Hot Women CD, and on Volume 3 of the Secret Museum series.
Issue Number: V.E. 2107
Matrix Number: CEI. 7910
10 thoughts on “Ma E Mi – “Thai Rhyme with Sound””
EOWM called this a “highlight”, so I was wondering whether you would be so kind and restore it.
I know no Burmese, but after consulting a character table, I suspect the bold text spells out something remotely resembling ‹Youdəyaa-[?]-θwaa.› – I don’t know what the thing after the 2nd : is, and I certainly have no idea what the whole line means.
this is great!
i have one thing to add, though.. i tried my hand at translating some of the label.. and i believe the featured instrument maybe in fact be a guitar, rather than burmese harp.. the line in between the song title and the artist’s name reads “ဂီတာ” meaning guitar.
Hi Peter! I always thought it was the guitar, too – the Burmese person who translated the song insisted it was the saung, so I was reliant on that information.
There are a couple more great Burmese tracks on Dust-to-Digital’s Victrola Favorites. Too bad there isn’t more out there.
Also, I just discovered your blog a couple of days ago and I’m overwhelmed and very grateful. You’re like Nikolai Vavilov for sounds! Thank you very much.
Thanks for the nice words!
I was in Burma last year and saw a lot of old records for sale in markets and on the street. I was wondering what they sounded like. Now I have a sense. Thanks!
This http://www.folkways.si.edu/music-of-southeast-asia/world/album/smithsonian has 78rpm recordings from Burma and a few other countries.
And there’s this too: http://www.folkways.si.edu/burmese-folk-and-traditional-music/world/album/smithsonian
The name of the singer is Ma E Mi.not Ma Eei Moe. The song is classicla song composed during the age of kings some hundred years ago.
Thank you very much – amazing that it took 7 years for someone to notice!