When I first arrived in Myanmar 4 years ago I had no idea what to expect from the music scene here. I wasn’t even sure if there was a music scene. Through some new expat friends I ended up playing a few gigs with people around the city and through those shows met some very talented and interesting local musicians.
One of those shows was a benefit gig for Food not Bombs at the Burbrit Tap Room and featured a handful of great bands and performers most of whom were locals.
It was then I fully realised that Yangon’s music scene was alive and kicking and ready for the world. A show as eclectic as this would actually be a rare thing in many places I have lived but this was a powerful display of musical solidarity from the young and not so young musicians of Yangon. The line up included Zin Lin, Dig Up Her Bones, local punk heroes Rebel Riot, talented rapper T-zin and the seriously rocking Maze of Mara.
With a small PA and playing through some of our old battered amps this band had the very mixed crowd transfixed with the hard kicking rhythm section, an amazing guitarist and the enigmatic Zee on vocals
I caught up with Zee recently to find out what’s been happening in the past year or so and what the future holds.
Zee’s passion for music started at a young age. She says she didn’t have a favourite genre but listened to everything until Metal finally drew her in and she hasn’t looked back since. She was a fan of Evanescence and Flyleaf among others.
“These bands were the reason I started my band as a female-fronted metal band. I started my first band in 2009. At that time, the band wasn’t called Maze of Mara. It was a different name. There were many changes with the band name and the players as well, At one point, I was the only member left of the band and so, there was a short hiatus due to that situation. Eventually, I started recruiting members again and we started writing songs and jamming in the practice room.“
In 2015 the band played their first-ever concert at the Voice of the Youth festival under the name Maze of Mara and that name has stuck with them since.
Zee says it is difficult here in Myanmar to keep a band together, especially in the underground metal scene. She puts this down to a shortage of musicians in that genre but also a regular income from music is a big challenge here.
Despite those challenges, Zee says as founder and vocalist for the band she will always keep the band going.
“As a female musician, to be in the metal scene is quite hard. I know which music genres are more accepted in the local music industry and what genres have a better chance to succeed in the mainstream as I used to be a music reporter. Nevertheless, in the band, there are player changes every now and then but I am trying to keep the band going at all costs.”
Zee seems to see the band as a life vocation and says she feels sad that they aren’t where they are supposed to be yet.
“What is good though is that I learned how to love my music from artists of all genres in the underground music scene. I found out the true meaning of art and I learned how to help each other as we stand together for the music we each love.”
Creatively the band are a team with all the members contributing to the music side and Zee taking care of the lyrics although she says she wants to get better at more instruments as things progress.
So far the band have released 2 tracks “Who Knows” and “Psychopath” and have several demo songs in hand at various stages of readiness, some, as Zee says, that are pending recording but others that are still pretty raw.
She has to work now to support her music career ambitions but continues to try to improve her vocal range.
“As a vocalist who has to do both the clean vocal and the scream, I assume I need to improve my scream to get to the degree where I want it to be” she says
Zee doesn’t limit herself to Maze of Mara and is working on side projects with other artists including a trap metal song with producer Ray D and a gothic metal song with guitarist Kaung Myat Kalvin. She will also collaborate with Novem Htoo the 2019 winner of The Voice – Myanmar and a song with metal band Glow in the Dark
She also enjoys the much more sedate hobby of painting which is a far cry from the fireball of screaming vocal passion I witnessed back in 2018. There are many great young artists in this country working hard to find an audience and Zee along with Maze of Mara deserves a big stage and a huge crowd to let her go free. As she herself says;
“What I really care about is the quality of my music and that’s it. I do my best to the point I go psycho sometimes.”