Plenty of international buzz was generated by last week’s announcement that American singer-songwriter Jason Mraz will perform live in Yangon on December 16, at a free concert aimed at raising awareness of human trafficking.
But this is just the latest in series of efforts by the event’s organiser, MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking), to highlight issues related to the exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable populations.
The organisation has already made two documentary films, in 2009 and 2012, based on the true stories of human trafficking victims in Myanmar. Now, by holding a free international concert, MTV EXIT hopes to reach a wider audience with its message, in Myanmar and beyond.
“We’ve made two documentaries to educate people about trafficking in Myanmar, so now we want to try a different type of media with a large international music concert,” Mr Matt Love, campaign director of MTV EXIT, told The Myanmar Times last week.
“At the concert we’ll use big screens to show our trafficking documentaries and highlight the interviews with victims. Next year we’ll be making more documentaries, but for now the concert is just a different approach.”
He said that although the Mraz concert will be the first such event that MTV EXIT has organised in Myanmar, it has already held some 30 similar concerts in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nepal and Taiwan, from which they have received positive feedback.
“It looks very different to hold a large concert in Myanmar from other countries. … There are many challenges, but we’re ready to overcome any problems. Myanmar is a country that’s just starting to open, so it’s a very exciting moment for all of us,” Mr Love said.
He said he believed the concert will have a significantly higher profile than the documentaries.
“When we hold concerts, the international media, local channels and local radio stations broadcast and report on our event. So sharing the moment is more effective and faster than showing documentaries. While we can say that documentaries are great, concerts have a much higher profile,” he said.
He said MTV EXIT spent more than one year planning the Mraz concert, including researching the views, ideas and opinions of the Myanmar public, government and local celebrities.
“At this time we’re preparing the concert, but we will continue making documentaries in the future,” Mr Love said.
“We’ve had good feedback about our documentaries on Myanmar, and we’re very happy that. NGOs and young people talk about the films, and that when they organise workshops on human trafficking they often use our documentaries as part of their program.”
Mr Simon Goff, the CEO of MTV EXIT, said their programs in Myanmar could not succeed without the cooperation of local citizens and government officials.
“Achieving our aim of stopping exploitation and trafficking depends on the public, government, non-governmental organisations and news media. There are many ways that people can become victims of human trafficking, but there are also many ways to save people from trafficking,” he said at a press conference at Sedona Hotel Yangon on November 17.
He also thanked the Myanmar government for allowing the concert to be held in Yangon, and vowed that he would return to Myanmar in December to see the show.
Supporting Jason Mraz at the concert will be a number of high-profile Myanmar performers representing a variety of musical genres, including R Zar Ni, Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, Phyo Gyi, Linn Linn, Chan Chan and Chit Thu Wai.
Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, who in 2008 performed at an international concert organised by MTV EXIT in Thailand, said she believed music can be used to share knowledge with young people.
“From the Thailand concert I learned that music can attract people from all walks of life, who can all learn about human trafficking. It was very effective. I believe the concert on December 16 will also help spread our message about trafficking,” Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein said.
Vocalist R Zar Ni has announced that the first song he will perform at the concert will be about human trafficking, composed by Myint Moe Aung.
The first MTV EXIT documentary about Myanmar, released in 2009, was narrated by Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, while the second, which came out in March of this year and is still being broadcast on MRTV and MRTV-4, features the voice of R Zar Ni.