Not many vocalists possess the ability to captivate audiences with both their lyrical prowess and vocal talent. Phoe Kar has risen to fame with love songs inspired by his penchant for romantic literature. MYANMORE had a sit-down with this man of immense talent and versatility and talked about his musical journey. 

From lyricist to vocalist

Ever since he was a child, Phoe Kar loved poems and everything poetic. Growing up in a household where his mother was a singer and his uncle a composer, he was immersed in the world of music from the start.

Although famous as a vocalist, Phoe Kar began his career as a lyricist. “It was after high school I began writing songs,” he reminisced. “I had a passion for poetry and it grew into lyrics.”

He made a demo of his songs and found a producer. In 1997, he released his first solo album. It did not bring him overnight success but opened doors to Yangon’s pop scene.

“I got married when I was 21. I had decided to dive head-first into the music industry so I did not pursue any other career. Married life was more challenging than a single life. But it was bearable since I was doing what I was passionate about.”

Finding fame

It was in the early 2000s when the song Homesick which he wrote for another acclaimed vocalist Y Wine first made a splash in his career. Then, success came knocking. His second solo album in 2002 was a smash hit. The single My Secret alone catapulted him to pop stardom. 

“I draw inspiration from books, movies, songs and my own experiences,” Phoe Kar shared. “I’m an emotional person so tapping into delicate feelings is an advantage when writing songs. I love romance novels and write and perform love songs mostly. So, you can say love is my biggest inspiration.”

Phoe Kar’s songs are usually about longing whether it is for a love interest or something else. For example, hits like My Secret and Ta Saint Saint Kyi are about men pining for their sweethearts. Homesick, as the name suggests, tells a story of a person who misses their home. These songs have both earworm appeal and staying power, the qualities which probably keep them relevant to younger audiences although they were produced some 20 years ago.   

Credit: Phoe Kar Facebook

Embracing change

Today’s music landscape has drastically changed from what Phoe Kar was familiar with. He admitted that he was still trying to catch up with the digital era. “The widespread internet access was possible only around a decade ago. So, we kinda fell behind when it comes to digitising music. The current generation is better at adapting to online music and they can teach us a lot in this regard.”

He also had reservations about music going online, especially in terms of copyright issues. “When we were young, we sang cover songs as a tribute to the late musicians. We also paid them copyright fees. But these days, youngsters cover the songs immediately after they were released, often for commercial purposes. I think the original songs deserve some time to shine before being covered extensively. I agree that cover songs can be effective in revitalising older songs.”

Phoe Kar showcased his versatility as a musician by captivating audiences with his renditions of both original songs and covers. Recognising the distinction between the two, he expressed his perspective, stating, “With cover songs, you have the opportunity to infuse them with your own thoughts and emotions. However, it’s essential to tread carefully, ensuring that the song’s legacy remains intact. On the other hand, original songs hold a special place. They become part of your identity, forever linked to you. [It’s important to] make them your own, treating them like masterpieces. Each category presents its own challenges.”

Musician for life

With an illustrious career spanning over two decades, six solo albums and multiple hit songs, Phoe Kar has undeniably left an indelible mark on Myanmar’s music scene and captured the affection of countless fans. But his musical journey is far from over. “I have a plan to collaborate with Zaw Paing – two different music styles merged into a refreshing one. If I had a chance, I’d love to perform with Ko Lay [rock star Lay Phyu], too. I also want to work with the new generation of artists.”

Despite his seniority, Phoe Kar remains humble and open-minded. He acknowledged that he never lost touch with the new trends. “I find new artists like Wai La inspiring. I’m a lifelong learner. I take notes from both old and new.”

Born to a musical pedigree, he could not imagine a life outside this industry, saying that if he were not a performer, he would be a player. “I always loved drumming!”

Phoe Kar found his future in his daughter who also sings sometimes. “Now my girl is studying abroad. I’ll support whatever her life choices be – whether she wants to be a musician or pursues a career outside showbiz.”

When asked if he had anything to say to his audiences, he replied with a smile: “It’s best saying to them through my songs.”   

You can listen to Phoe Kar’s songs on his official YouTube channel: youtube.com/@PHOEKAR 

Discography

  • Hman ta chat ye eit-met မှန်တစ်ချပ်ရဲ့ အိပ်မက် (1997)
  • Hmyaw lin thaw lan မျှော်လင့်သောလမ်း (2002)
  • Ta Saint Saint Kyi တစိမ့်စိမ့်ကြည့် (2007)
  • To to lay pyaw ba တိုးတိုးလေးပြောပါ (2008)
  • Eit-met အိပ်မက် (2013)
  • Phyan khin ဖြန့်ခင်း (2016)

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