posted on May 28, 2009 10:08
Beijing Beat is in Burma this week, just as the country’s most famous citizen, Aung San Suu Kyi is on trial. There’s lots of well-armed police and military out on patrol, but this is no dour nation. The music shops, and there are plenty, sell guitar chord books and stacks of CDs and DVDs of local artists. Chinese pop is big in Burma. Staff sung along to Mandopop megahits while I was getting my hair cut at the East Boys hair salon on Seik Kan Tha Street A five minute walk away, three helpful attendants at the Man Thiri music shop – they produce and distribute CDs, VCDs and tapes as well as DVDs – when I asked them for their best local folk and Burmese rock CDs plucked me out a work by harpist Haing Win Maung, and this by local hip hop/rocker Alex: Live at Inya Lake.
The local official press is farcically out of touch – the regime’s greetings to Azerbaijani leaders for that country’s national day made the page one lead yesterday – but there are plenty of chances to get alternative views in Rangoon/Yangon. There’s the paper boy selling Thailand’s The Nation on the street near my hotel, and then, in the hotel lobby, the staff watching satellite TV coverage of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial, piped in by the country’s opposition in exile in Norway. That seems to be Burma: a very, friendly, nuanced kind of place. Badly run, unnecessarily impoverished, but also full of surprises. Number one for me was how it makes a good first impression: the new international airport in Rangoon is smart, glass and chrome and attentive, friendly staff. Nothing at all as chaotic as my recent experience flying into Dhaka, in neighbouring Bangladesh. But then nowhere do you hear chaotic Bangladesh’s multiplicity of voices, and debate. I’m looking forward to checking out the live music scene, particularly the Lazy Club, where apparently aforementioned rocker Alex regularly plays.More ...