Yan­gon hits its groove with vinyl record store

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYO ME

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singers like Adele have been avail­able in vinyl in­ter­na­tion­ally, but un­til re­cently, lo­cals felt records were out of date,” said U Win Myint Oo.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.”

Photos: Nyo Me

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.

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