Rock legend Lay Phyu has produced an album of Myanmar classical songs performed with traditional instruments, with the release date set for July 11.
The album, titled Shwe Myay Yanant (The Scent of the Golden Land), features seven well-known yodayar songs, which are Myanmar classical compositions with tunes adopted from Thai music.
The songs feature only two instruments: the pá wine (drum circle), played by Soe Thein, who at the time of recording was a second year music student at National University of Arts and Culture; and the palwei (fipple flute), played by A Ti, a tutor at the same school.
A Ti said that before he met Lay Phyu in 2006, he never dreamt he would create an instrumental album.
“We met at an exhibition for artist Nay Myo Say, who had arranged for me and a friend to play pá wine and palwei as background music for the opening,” said 36-year-old A Ti, whose real name is Tin Maung Lwin.
“[Lay Phyu] was there and he later contacted me through Nay Myo Say and said he wanted to release an instrumental album.”
A Ti said he was surprised by the offer and decided to work with his student Soe Thein, whom he described as “talented and versatile”.
“I never thought I’d have to chance to make an instrumental album. I’ve played on some VCDs with the band Opera, but to release my own instrumental album was beyond my imagination,” he said.
Taking advice from Lay Phyu, A Ti and Soe Thein picked songs that were all from the same subgenre of Myanmar classical music.
“[Lay Phyu] wanted soft songs that would impart similar emotions throughout the entire album, so we chose the yodayar genre. [Lay Phyu] didn’t interfere with our song choices, and they were among my and Soe Thein’s favourites,” A Ti said.
He said he hoped the album would inspire a new generation of Myanmar classical musicians to choose music as a career.
“It’s challenging to be a musician, especially in Myanmar classical music. These days young people are more interested in Western music, but there is a small number who love classical music. I hope our album will motivate and encourage them,” A Ti said.
Soe Thein, 27, who lives in Mawlamyine and has performed at traditional ceremonies since graduating from the university, expressed his enthusiasm for music in a telephone interview with The Myanmar Times.
“I’m really keen on Myanmar traditional music and instruments. I can play almost all the traditional instruments, but for the moment I have to play keyboards to earn money,” he said, adding: “Of course, I didn’t expect to play for my own album. I can’t express how happy I am.”
Lay Phyu said he did not expect to make much money from the album, but he wanted to encourage “Myanmar ambient music” in a Myanmar environment.
“When we go to the supermarkets or shops we mostly hear Chinese or Western songs, but I would like to hear Myanmar traditional songs instead. I hope the album will be suitable for places that have a cultural sense,” he said.
The 40-something Lay Phyu said that by producing the album, he also wanted to give something back to Myanmar society.
“When people get to be my age, they want to give something back to society. I want to given something back as well. Since I work in the music industry, this album is my contribution,” he said.
He said Shwe Myay Yanant marked his first foray into music production, and he planned to distribute the CD internationally.
“I also want foreign audiences to explore our culture and tradition through our music and instruments. I’m still trying to make contacts for international distribution,” he said.