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