As the owner of three successful music-related businesses, Arkar Win Mya is Mandalay’s leading figure in the industry. Despite keeping a low profile, it is clear that his passion for music is one of the main forces behind the city’s slowly but surely evolving scene. MYANMORE sat down to talk with Arkar at his recently renovated studio.
When did you develop a passion for music?
I was raised a Christian and so my first exposure to music was in the church. I loved hearing the music and admired the elders who played guitar and piano, including my father. He taught me how to play my first chords and ever since then music has been a big part of my life.
Tell us about your start in the music business.
My first project was JM Guitar Shop, which I opened in 2007. At that time we had two other guitar shops in Mandalay but with limited selection. JM’s sells everything from cheaper Chinese-made acoustic guitars to high-end electric guitars imported from Singapore and Japan. We are still popular, especially with university students who are just learning the basics of guitar.
What artists do you listen to the most?
I love Myanmar rockers like Ah Nge, Zaw Win Htut and Lay Phyu. Wai La’s latest EP is also fabulous – great music and amazing lyrics.
What about the Myanmar music scene?
Yangon is developing a proper ‘scene’ where young, unsigned bands are getting a chance to play. Yangon musicians are very motivated and always seeking new opportunities to improve and reach new audiences. But in Mandalay, the bands seem to be satisfied with themselves. I wish they would try to aim higher and use social media to promote their music as there is a lot of talent up here.
You recently renovated your Mandalay recording space, LA Studio. Do you hope this will help the city’s music scene?
When I opened LA Studio in 2012, it was just a hobby. It was a place for friends and musicians to hang out, jam and record tracks but the equipment was not professional. There are other recording studios in Mandalay but only a few offer high-quality production equipment at an affordable price, so I decided to renovate LA to fit this market. Too often the production cost is too high and prevents new artists from recording. So I wanted to make it possible for aspiring musicians to record high-quality tracks without having to spend a lot of money.
After a successful launch in Yangon, you partnered up with Academy of Rock to open a Mandalay branch earlier this year. How is the school going?
I am so proud of Academy of Rock. Even though we are only in the soft-opening phase we have a strong group of music students that are talented. The slogan of AOR is ‘”Never too early, never too late”. We have students as young as seven years old and as old as 57. The young students are quick learners and their parents support them. The older students are glad to finally have the opportunity to develop their lifelong passions.
What are your future plans?
We want to focus on expanding Academy of Rock. We are offering free one-hour classes to anyone who is interested. I hope this will bring in more students and help them develop their passion for music. I love that we can provide this opportunity to the people of Mandalay.
For more information about the businesses listed in this article:
JM Guitar Shop, Ground Floor, Great Wall Shopping Centre (Between 77th & 78th Streets, 32 & 33rd Streets) https://www.facebook.com/JmsGuitarStore/
Academy of Rock, in the Nadi Myanmar Hotel compound (62nd Street between 36th & 37th Streets); www.facebook.com/academyofrockmandalay
LA Studio, in the Nadi Myanmar Hotel compound (62nd Street between 36th & 37th Streets); https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Recording-Studio/