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Myanmar Protest Songs

Sounds of the world : Music in the Myanmar protests 

Cet article en anglais est le résul­tat d’un pro­jet col­la­bo­ra­tif entre #Aux­Sons et Ale­jan­dro Abbud Torres Tori­ja, pro­fes­seur à Sciences Po Paris Cam­pus Reims, et contri­bu­teur régu­lier d’#AuxSons. Dans le cadre du cours “Sons du monde : la musique comme miroir de l’in­time et du col­lec­tif” des étu­diants inter­na­tio­naux de Sciences Po Paris Cam­pus Reims se sont pen­chés sur les liens entre musiques des quatre coins du monde et enjeux sociopolitiques. 

This article is a result of a col­la­bo­ra­tive pro­ject bet­ween #Aux­Sons and Ale­jan­dro Abbud Torres Tori­ja, lec­tu­rer at Sciences Po Paris Cam­pus Reims, and regu­lar contri­bu­tor to #Aux­Sons. As part of the class “Sounds of the world : Music as mir­ror of the inti­mate and the col­lec­tive”, inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents from Sciences Po Paris Cam­pus Reims pre­pa­red articles pre­sen­ting contem­po­ra­ry music from dif­ferent parts of the world in connec­tion with recent socio-poli­ti­cal events.

 

« Viva la revo­lu­tion ! Let’s sing toge­ther, let’s fight toge­ther ! » shou­ted the lea­der of Rebel Riot, a Bir­ma­nian punk figh­ting against the jun­ta. Since February’s coup, music has played a cen­tral role in the pro­tests. Myan­mar and pro­test songs have a long-sha­red his­to­ry : the pro­tes­ters qui­ck­ly tur­ned to songs that defi­ned the 1988 pro-demo­cra­cy upri­sings. The three most well-known songs are Blood Oath, We Shall Not Sur­ren­der Till The End Of The World and Encou­rage Mi Nge. These three songs share com­mon themes of figh­ting for the nation’s free­dom and for his­to­ry as well as facing hard­ships to achieve peace. They remind the entire coun­try of its com­mon past of figh­ting toge­ther against a mili­ta­ry dic­ta­tor­ship. For example, We shall not sur­ren­der men­tions key his­to­ri­cal Bur­mese figures, such as Aung San, an inde­pen­dence acti­vist consi­de­red as the father of modern Myan­mar, and Tha­kin Kodaw Hmaing, a poet and poli­ti­cal thin­ker remem­be­red for ini­tia­ting the peace move­ment in the country. 

Blood Oath 

We Shall Not Sur­ren­der Till The End Of The World 

Encou­rage Mi Nge 

 

Howe­ver, as the 2021 pro­tests have been led by the youth, new songs have also been crea­ted. This is the case of The Dic­ta­tor­ship Must End, One Day and Revo­lu­tion. Like their ances­tors, these three songs all men­tion being rea­dy for the revo­lu­tion, figh­ting for the people’s rights and lives, and ending the dic­ta­tor­ship. They illus­trate Gene­ra­tion Z’s cru­cial role in these pro­tests : all have become popu­lar tools of resis­tance after being uploa­ded on social media. They are also part of a spe­ci­fic move­ment online : the Milk Tea Alliance, a move­ment of citi­zens from Hong Kong, Tai­wan, Thai­land and Myan­mar, who are all figh­ting for demo­cra­cy. As such, they have hel­ped to gather inter­na­tio­nal sup­port for the pro-demo­cra­cy move­ment. Like their older coun­ter­parts, these new songs also refe­rence “heroes” of the nation, like “aunt” Aung San Suu Kyi, whom they want freed — she was pla­ced on house arrest at the begin­ning of the coup. 

The Dic­ta­tor­ship Must End (pro­test version) 

 

Music has pro­ven to be a power­ful tool in the fight against dic­ta­tor­ship. Indeed, the songs have been used to call people into joi­ning the move­ment, either by making links with Myanmar’s past or by appea­ling to sha­red values. 

Rebel Riot – One Day 

 

Moreo­ver, in a socie­ty where women are expec­ted to stay quiet, music has been a way for them to take the lead and go against the sys­tem — as the sin­ger of the band Rebel Riot explai­ned in an inter­view with Al-Jazee­ra. It can also help people cheer each other up in a time of hard­ships, and is very cathar­tic for musi­cians as well as the public, in a per­iod of high uncer­tain­ty and fear.

Revo­lu­tion 

 

Music has the­re­fore been a way to unite, but also to resist when it can­not be done other­wise. It is an easy and power­ful way to occu­py spaces when the mili­ta­ry blocks streets and dis­si­pates gathe­rings. Moreo­ver, it gives eve­ryone a voice : not only has it hel­ped the move­ment gain inter­na­tio­nal atten­tion on social media, but while the mili­ta­ry fights with wea­pons, people resist with what they have, voices, gui­tars, pots, and pans.

 

the author :

Car­mine Audo­ly is a French student at Sciences Po and has lived in Paris and Los Angeles. Music is a cen­tral part of her life. She plays the accor­dion, the pia­no, and sings ope­ra as well as jazz and rock music. As a poli­ti­cal science student, she is par­ti­cu­lar­ly inter­es­ted in the links bet­ween music and politics.

 

pho­to : Rebel Riot – One Day 

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