A stone’s throw from Sule Pagoda I sat on a stranger’s floor and watched a bustling crew prepare a series of pop-up performances. My girlfriend sat beside me, my +1. As the other guests filtered in, I recognized a few faces from the September show at Sofaer & Co on North Pansodan—these shows really do pop up everywhere. Some guests sat on the floor, others posted up on a wall, and one or two plopped on the bed behind me. It was relaxed and mellow, simple and real.
Sofar Sounds seeks to create intimate and meaningful shows where artists and music lovers can connect. The rules are simple: no talking or walking around during performances, stay off your phone, and pay attention. In an era of constant connection, updates, and notifications it demands that you disconnect and tune in.
Océane, a French singer/songwriter inspired, in part, by her time in Myanmar, was the first of three performances. As she played the audience, undistracted, tuned into her sound, giving her their appreciation. The next set was the local audio duo of Bouhinga, previously featured in MYANMORE, who brought synthetic and melancholic sounds, along with dry humor, to a captivated and fully invested room.
The evening wrapped up with Arran Fagan, a singer/songwriter passing through Myanmar, whose folksy sound crept in through your ears and landed heavily in your heart. Even his happiest song was sad. True to the spirit of Sofar Sounds, Arran encouraged audience members to ask questions, get to know him, and discuss music, building a relationship that is all too often missing from more traditional shows.
A far cry from the giant stadiums, where a sea of phones might block your view of the performance, and the noisy and uninterested bars sporting a live band, Sofar Sounds brings great musicians closer. In this closeness, strangers share in great performances and by the end of the night are a little less strange.
Sofar Sounds shows maintain their intimate environments through exclusive yet fair systems. Interested hosts, performers, and audience members apply through their website, www.sofarsounds.com/yangon. Hosts and artists are screened and selected by longtime Sofar Sounds volunteers, while those looking to enjoy a show submit themselves to a lottery. Selected guests get an email 2-4 days prior to the show to confirm their attendance and find out the location the day before. By limiting their numbers and bringing in emerging artists, Sofar Sounds consistently creates personal and impressionable musical experiences.
How much do these experiences cost? You decide; you donate. Sofar Sounds Yangon operates through the dedication of volunteers and with the donations made at the end of each show.
The next Sofar Sounds Yangon show is on Tuesday, December 17th. If you’re reading this and it’s too late to sign up, worry not, there will be another show soon. Create an account with their site and get email updates on upcoming shows and opportunities to listen, to really listen to some great music.
Credit for photos to Sofar Sounds Facebook Page