Exploring Myanmar’s Cultural Diversity
Myanmar traditional music and dance have been passed down throughout the centuries while keeping its authenticity and cultural identity. Dances took their origin during Mon era and had slowly been influenced by Thai and Khmer styles to finally give this unique Myanmar’s rhythm. Belu, Nat Gadawand and Zawgyi remain the 3 most popular.
Origin of the 3 main Burmese Dance Styles
- The Belu: According to Myanmar’s folklore Belu was the name given to demons that used to roam Myanmar in 2000BC, stories tell that they could transform themselves in different physical shapes. This Dance is the representation of Belu’s anger after a Damsel he loved refused his flower.
- The Nat Gadaw and the Zawgyi: a Nat Gadaw dance is used as a donation to the Nat spirits also called “the guardians of the land”. The offering usually includes a green coconut; three bunches of bananas and other gifts. The dancer wears a costume made of red silk with a red headband and a red belt tightly knotted sash around the chest. The dance sequence is performed three times in total; it starts slowly to gradually speed up as the music goes crescendo. The Zawgyi dance is based on a character from the folklore known to be a master of alchemy. He would inhabit the forests near the Himalayans foraging for herbs. The dance itself is an interpretation of Zawgyi prancing in the woods collecting herbs waving his wand.
There are five groups of instruments, Kyei which are brass instruments, Thayyei which belong to leather-covered drums family, Kyo is the name given to string instruments, wind instruments called Lei and finally Letkhout which are percussion instruments. The instruments are played on a seven tones scale and each tone represents an animal. The music they play with these instruments is used as a musical background for traditional dance shows. There are many opportunities to attend a traditional dance show or a musical performance, especially in the ancient city of Bagan where these kinds of shows are popular.
Myanmar’s artists are quite famous and many of their old songs are still popular today. Htee Saing is a perfect example; he was a famous artist from Shan state well known for his gentle and peaceful songs which lyrics were related across rural villages by the inhabitants. If you appreciate Myanmar’s music, Ba Din is another popular artist who released quite a few popular albums. Contemporary music has been hit by Sai Sai Kham Leng, a famous hip hop artist and Ni Ni Khin Zaw who plays music for the new generation.
Music is an integral part of Myanmar culture. Locals are constantly listening to their favorite songs, you’ll also see many big billboards displaying the faces of popular artists. Contemporary and traditional music are part of the highlights of the country and many children take dancing lessons at a young age to learn these dances. As you walk down the streets, you’ll hear tunes floating through open shop windows or homes! Participate to a local dance performance is an unforgettable experience! Contact us, we’d be happy to arrange this for you in the best places over the country!