Wednesday, February 19, 2020

[Thingyan Special] MYOMA NYEIN: The Enchanting Silver Swan

Myoma Nyein

You might have heard of Myoma Nyein due to the brief tussle between the late composer’s family and a beer giant, due to the use of the words from his famous song without permission. But among all his works, it’s the ones about Thingyan that have always made Myoma Nyein stand out the most.

Founded around 1925 by Myoma Nyein, Dardan U Thant and several other passionate individuals, Myoma Amateur Music Association is one of the oldest associations in Myanmar that has stood the test of time for almost one century.

Myanmore was lucky to have the chance to meet up with Than Myat Soe, one of the members, to hear about its history. He had joined the association in 1965 as a young man and until now, is still actively performing.

“I was already singing and winning competitions, so I was a bit cocky. I told my seniors that I wanted to join the association. They said I will need to be able to play one musical instrument before I can start singing with them. I wanted to learn piano and play like Beethoven. But instead they gave me a trumpet. I was disappointed to say the least, but in hindsight, I am grateful. It was a difficult instrument to learn and I was the only one left standing in my group while other trainees left. We had to learn how to read musical notes and also write songs. It took one year for me to actually start singing with the band,” recalled Than Myat Soe.

The association performed for weddings and donation ceremonies throughout Mandalay and almost all over the country, with a focus on Thingyan Festivals.

Myoma Troupe Touring for Thingyan

“When I started performing with them, it was always a three-to-four-hours affair. The members had to play and also took turns to sing. It was extremely important to take care of your health because you had to perform so much. We would practice intensely before Thingyan and start decorating the vehicle for touring around the city,” said Than.

It has been a longstanding tradition of Myoma Troupe to decorate the vehicle with a huge trademark of Silver Swan – the colour of the vehicle around the swan bluish green to signify the color of the pond.

Than Myat Soe fondly recalled Thingyan of 1967 where famous actor and singer Win Oo collaborated with the troupe in Mandalay.

“He bought 15 songs of Sayar Myoma Nyein and we worked together with him. We invited him to join us for Thingyan and were not expecting much because he was so famous at that time. He replied that he would try and he actually came! The whole city went wild. Everyone was screaming for him when we toured around the city with our van. He had to keep standing up and he was smiling throughout. Even my cheeks hurt on his behalf,” Than reminisced.

With his uncanny musical ability, Win Oo revived the song Unfinished Painting by Myoma Nyein.

Actor Win Oo standing up to greet the crowd in Mandalay Thingyan 1967

 

“It was already a famous song and widely performed by many of my seniors. But when Win Oo sang the song for his movie, it became even more popular. I had to sing that song four to five times in one ceremony alone, because of high demands. It was crazy,” said Than.

As for the story behind the song Tu Po Tu Po, it was the brainchild of Than’s contemporary U Hla Din, who came up with the music while playing with his little tabla – the title of the song literally referred to the sound made by the instrument.

Today, Myoma Association still stands strong, with a three-story building that houses its own studios and sound system equipment. That building too has a story of its own, having survived a fire and undergone extensive renovation with support from the local community and the government.

This Thingyan, Silver Swan will be touring in Mandalay, with its members already brimming with excitement, driven by the love for music and their fellow citizens.

“Everything I have today, it’s all thanks to the support of this association,” said Than.

 

Photo Credit: Sayar Sue Hgnet

 

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