Gongs & Skins re­turns to Na­tional The­atre

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NANDAR AUNG

MU­SE­UMS are no place for mu­sic. And the clash be­tween pop and tra­di­tional mu­sic is a chance for na­tional and eth­nic cul­tures to put their stamp on the times, say devotees of Myan­mar per­cus­sion. A year ago, Gongs & Skins played at the Na­tional The­atre, lay­ing down a marker for the way they think mu­sic should be played. This year, tonight, they’re back.

Their per­cus­sion will be sup­ple­mented by electronics, strings and other in­stru­ments in a new and fresh per­for­mance. Ko Thaung Htike will lead the

hsaing waing along­side in­ter­na­tional guests, in­clud­ing part­ners from Asia, Africa and Europe.

Franz Xaver Au­gustin, di­rec­tor of the Goethe In­sti­tut, told a press con­fer­ence on Au­gust 1 that Myan­mar rhythm sec­tions need to de­velop new forms if they hope to sur­vive as any­thing more than mu­seum and tourist fod­der.

“The prob­lem of per­cus­sion in Myan­mar is that it lacks mod­u­la­tion,” he said. “Tra­di­tional cul­ture is fine, but the young­sters are not in­ter­ested.”

Per­cus­sion­ist troupes from Malaysia, Ger­many, France, Africa, along­side groups from Kayin and Rakhine states, are tak­ing part in a 10-day mu­si­cal work­shop, play­ing new forms of mu­sic, which sub­sti­tutes for lan­guage as a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“I’m very happy to join this con­cert,” said Saw Aung Kyaw Nyein, vice leader of the Kayin group, which is from Hpa-an. “We’ve gained pre­cious ex­pe­ri­ence by

com­bin­ing with for­eign groups for the first time. Young peo­ple can ap­pre­ci­ate the fact that our tra­di­tional in­stru­ments can play to­gether with for­eign in­stru­ments in orig­i­nal com­bi­na­tions.”

Their eight Kayin in­stru­ments, fa­mil­iar to fol­low­ers of the Kayin Dong Yein dance, will be on stage to­gether with vi­o­lins and elec­tronic mu­sic.

All the groups are work­ing un­der pro­fes­sor Bern­hard Wulff, who is back again this year, and also worked as artis­tic di­rec­tor.

“Tra­di­tional mu­sic is al­ways in com­pe­ti­tion with pop mu­sic,” said the 67-year-old vet­eran per­cus­sion­ist and com­poser. “Pop is like Coca-Cola and can be found ev­ery­where in the world. It is de­stroy­ing many things be­cause it is easy lis­ten­ing with sound dec­o­ra­tion. Tra­di­tional mu­sic is al­ways mean­ing­ful and is al­ways con­nected to the cir­cum­stances. It is not for dec­o­ra­tion. This way of easy lis­ten­ing, easy liv­ing is the trend of our time. Young peo­ple like it, but it’s dam­ag­ing their own cul­ture.”

The Ham­burg-born mu­si­cian added, “Mon­go­lian mu­sic has very old roots, as does Myan­mar’s. But in the end, they just per­form for tourists. Cul­tures need to pro­tect their own iden­tity.”

He be­lieves the Gongs & Skins In­ter­na­tional Per­cus­sion Festival is bring­ing mu­si­cians into con­tact with a mu­si­cal form to fight for their own iden­tity.

Gongs & Skins II in­ter­na­tional per­cus­sion festival will be held tonight at 7 pm at the Na­tional The­atre, My­oma Kyaung Street, en­trance free. Another con­cert will be held at the Zwekapin Hall, Hpa-an, Kayin State, on Au­gust 6 at 7pm.

Pho­tos Aung Htay Hlaing

Last year’s Gongs & Skins per­for­mance brought the Na­tional The­atre crowd to its feet.

The per­for­mance is cou­pled with op­por­tu­ni­ties for Myan­mar chil­dren to in­ter­act with new in­stru­ments.

Gongs & Skins re­hearses ahead of tonight’s per­for­mance.

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