Rangoon Rhythm: San Thu Aung

San Thu Aung.

By Alec Wilmot

Budding new star on the Myanmar pop scene, San Thu Aung is a shy young man with a charming smile and an easy manner. He’s Mandalay born, son of a Kachin mother and Chinese father. According to the artist, he’s been in love with singing since he was just five years old, taking it up enthusiastically as a member of his church choir and then as a solo hobby around the home. He says he never had grand designs on a career in show business, but as an older teen he made a hobby of uploading his covers of popular Myanmar pop tunes on YouTube.

His videos, shot in an endearing amateur style around his own home, enjoyed moderate viral success. The online support he received prompted him to try out for the Myanmar reality TV show Galaxy Star on MRTV-4, a pop music competition by Samsung. He entered the 2017 competition and battled his way to second place, which garnered him further online attention and some mediation and advice from the show’s pop idol judges.

“The most challenging part about doing live performances is dancing. People are expecting to see great dance moves, but I’m not very practiced at it,” San Thu Aung expressed.

He admits his preferred style is playing intimate Myanmar ballads on acoustic guitar, but to get ahead, he’s going to have build up his public confidence. For a year after the show ended, San Thu Aung continued working on his own material and uploading videos, but then, in 2018, received an offer from Korean media agency One Entertainment, which quickly led to the release of San Thu Aung’s first album, “Keys”.

“My mother cried when she learned I had released an album. She was so supportive, I really felt validated because a lot of artists struggle getting their parents’ approval to sing” he said.

The agency then put San Thu Aung’s works on Korean streaming apps Bugs and Melon, as well as on iTunes. He’s now learning how to sing in both Korean and English to increase his marketability, and is slowly figuring out a dance routine. His first single, “Holding Me Back”, was released to streaming on 18th February in both Korean and English.

He is now about to release his second album, which is going to be a mix of Myanmar, Korean and English pop songs and ballads. The language training, on top his recording commitments, has got San Thu Aung hard work, but he still finds time relax, preferring to spend his weekends noodling on his guitar, going to the cinema to see comedies or (he seems embarrassed to admit) playing Clash of Clans on his mobile phone.

“I’m not sure what the next step is”, San Thu Aung said. “I can’t wait to see what Myanmar audiences think of a mixed language album, it’s going to be something new”.

Check out his performance at Digital Media City in Sangam, Seoul in 2018 below.

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