Yangon hits its groove with vinyl record store
YOU can find almost anything in this town. T-shirts depicting Justin Bieber wearing a T-shirt depicting Aung San Suu Kyi? Got it. Velvet slippers adorned with butterflies? Got it. Fried crickets? Got plenty.
But despite its extensive inventory of strange goods, there’s one commodity that has long been hard to come by in downtown Yangon: vinyl records.
Once the standard of audio listening technology, record players have come back into style around the world in the past few years, riding a wave of yuppies and hipsters who dig the “retro” sound of vinyl. From Tokyo to London, artists continue to release their albums on vinyl despite the digital convenience of streaming services and iPhones.
Thanks to 56-year-old U Win Myint Oo’s newly opened Queen record store, Yangon audiophiles can now enjoy the craze they’ve been missing out on. Located at the corner of Bo Soon Pat Road and Bogyoke Aung San Road, the small store-front popped up two months ago.
“Songs of the latest singers like Adele have been available in vinyl internationally, but until recently, locals felt records were out of date,” said U Win Myint Oo. “But the truth is, vinyl record audio quality is better than CDs. I prefer to listen to them on high quality sound systems, and I wanted others to have that chance. That’s why I opened the shop.”
Just big enough for a few people to browse its collection of around 20 records, Queen is believed to be the first modern vinyl record shop in Yangon and potentially Myanmar. U Win Myint Oo said he sources the records from the US and UK, and his stock includes classic records from artists such as Fleetwood Mac and Elvis as well as more recent albums, such as Adele’s 21. He guessed that eight out of 10 visitors to the shop express surprise that vinyl records still exist.
It’s not his first foray into trading in music. Back in 1982, U Win Myint Oo opened a music store called Country Boy, copying songs from vinyl records onto radio tapes and selling them to the music-starved audience of socialist-era Myanmar. Back then, tape players were more widely available than record players, and the resurgence of vinyl had yet to come into vogue.
That shop closed in 1987, and he got into the restaurant business for two decades while keeping up his passion for highquality audio. In 2011, he opened another audio shop, this one catering to a more expensive audience. Named the Yangon Hifi Audio shop in the back of Bogyoke Market’s second floor, that store offers high-end equipment such as amplifiers, cables and home theatre services.
The truth is, vinyl records themselves aren’t exactly cheap to come by. U Nay Linn, a friend of U Win Myint Oo who spoke to
The Myanmar Times yesterday at Queen, said maintaining a vinyl collection is simply too pricey for many.
“I have to make money to provide for my family,” he said. “I cannot afford to collect and maintain them.”
The records sell for between US$20 and $300, depending on the album and the quality. U Win Myint Oo said those looking to get into vinyl should also be prepared to spend at least $100 ordering a record player, which he can arrange through Queen or the Yangon Hifi Audio Shop.
He also sells CDs, ranging from $16 for normal disks to $40 for higher quality recordings. Those looking for a cheap listen can buy burned copies at K1500.
“When people come to me to buy a set, I first ask what their budget is,” U Win Myint Oo said, adding that he’s had about 30 customers – many of them coming back for more. “I think people will gradually come to realise the superior quality of records. People always like the best they can get.”
Turntables are available at Yangon Hifi Audio in Bogyoke market.
The selection at Queen is small yet wide-ranging, attracting what U Win Myint Oo guesses is around 30 customers so far.
A store clerk stands outside Queen record store on Bo Soon Pat Street – Yangon’s first modern record store.
U Win Myint Oo talks with The Myanmar Times in his Yangon Hifi Audio Shop, which he runs in addition to Queen.