'Burma's Got Talent' Event to Mark Suu Kyi's Birthday
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Protesters hold portraits of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in front of Burmese Embassy in Tokyo on May 30.
(Photo: AP)

Several socially engaged members of Burma's arts and entertainment community will take part in a 10-day music contest to promote emerging young talent and mark the birthday of National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to party sources.

The contest, which is open to anyone under the age of 35, will start on June 10 and continue until Suu Kyi's birthday on June 19. Judges will include well-known musicians such as Ye Lwin, Thar Htwe and Zeyar Thaw, said the NLD's Hla Min, who is in charge of the event.

“Anyone can sign up to join the contest, which will also be a fund-raising event for the NLD youth network,” said Hla Min.

Suu Kyi recently told Washington-based Radio Free Asia that the NLD planned to hold a music competition at its Rangoon headquarters to celebrate her first birthday since her release from house arrest late last year.

According to Hla Min, Suu Kyi loves music and has a complete set of musical instruments that were used at an Independence Day concert in 1996, six months after her release from an earlier period of house arrest.

Participants in this year's event said that it would serve a social as well as artistic function.

“We support the concert because it will give young musicians a chance to shine,” said Ye Lwin. “It will also help to create networks among young people. Artists should be as socially engaged as possible.”

However, artists in Burma often find that there's a price to be paid for getting involved in social activities. Recently, a groups of artists, including writer Than Myint Aung, film director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, popular vocalist Than Thar Win, punk rock star Kyar Pauk (aka Han Htoo Lwin) and rapper Annaga, were temporarily blacklisted by the country's censors for visiting an HIV/AIDS shelter in Rangoon's Dagon Myothit (South) Township run by the NLD.

“There are many artists who wish to engage in social work but can't, for many reasons,” said Ye Lwin, acknowledging that some members of his profession were reluctant to take part in the competition.

But Zeyar Thaw said that artists are obliged to do what they can for society, because many people in the country are facing difficulties.

“As professional musicians, we earn a living from the public, so it's good for us to get involved in work that benefits society,” said Zeyar Thaw.