Burmese Peace of Mind

Khing Zin & Shwe Shwe Khaing

Voice Over the Bridge (EarthSync ES0031, 2010)

Voice Over the Bridge takes the listener to the little known musical world of Myanmar (Burma). Gifted Burmese singers and university professors Khing Zin Shwe and Shwe Shwe Khaing collaborate with Middle Eastern producers to create a contemporary vision of traditional Burmese music. Voice Over the Bridge is based on the musical and literary tradition of the ancient Maha Gita (great song).

Israeli producers Patrick Sebag and Yotam Agam met Khing Zin Shwe and Shwe Shwe Khaing and brought the ancient traditions into a new era. “Our first meeting was a magical moment,” Sebag reminisces. “We heard them singing a traditional song from far away and went to find them.” Sebag, Agam, researcher Ernest Hariyanto and crew were searching Myanmar for musicians as part of the visually spectacular Laya Project, a multi-country, multimedia tribute to the cultures affected by the 2004 Asian tsunami.

These classical Maha Gita songs are about the power and glory of the ancient kings, the prosperity of the cities, and the beauty of nature with jungles and forests,” says vocalist Khing Zin Shwe. “It is also about the way of life of the people in the olden days, so we can learn about their beliefs and customs.”

When I sing, I do my best to have the right mood. For example, take a sentimental poem, a longing song,” Shwe Shwe Khaing explains. “To sing that song tastefully, you need to know what the composer actually had in mind and the vocalist needs to share it by having the right mood.”

Lots of Western musicians are afraid to deal with the music of Burma,” Sebag reflects. “African and Indian music, for example, lend themselves more easily to collaboration. It took us a long time to understand the structure of traditional Burmese music. Like looking for gold, you need to dig very deep.”

We had to collaborate remotely, as it’s not the easiest place to produce music or film,” recounts Sonya Mazumdar, EarthSync’s director. “Even finding a studio is difficult. But it was amazing how so many people went out of their way to help us record. They were so happy that a crew came who were really interested in the music and culture.”

Myanmar is a very poor country, and the unbelievable beauty and grace of the country and the people was something I never expected,” Mazumdar muses. “People had so much grace living very meagerly, even in the way they walked and talked. It’s very touching, the way they put Buddhism into practice. It’s not like anywhere else in the world and you can hear it in the music.”

Whether or not we have material possessions, there is no issue which can make us troubled in mind,” says singer Shwe. “We are not rich, but we have peace of mind.”

Voice Over the Bridge introduces the listener to the strikingly beautiful and humble voices of Myanmar.

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Voice Over the Bridge Trailer

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