What initially attracted me to the Jason Mraz concert in Yangon on Sunday, December 16 was the fact that tickets were free, and the venue was within easy walking distance of my apartment in Sanchaung’s Myaynigone ward.
But there were a few other pleasant surprises along the way, including the rare opportunity to walk down the middle of Pyay Road (closed to traffic for the event) without getting run over by an out-of-control bus; and the chance to guzzle as many litres as I desired of free Coca Cola at the concert, as long as I was willing to wade through the ever-deepening piles of discarded soft-drink cups to get a refill.
I arrived just before 6pm, ignoring the skuzzy scalpers selling free tickets for K2000 each, squeezing through the tiny crack in the front gate of People’s Square, and entering one of the most spectacular concert venues on the planet, with the illuminated Shwedagon Pagoda supplying the dramatic backdrop.
Chan Chan was the first performer, and she turned out to be one of the highlights of the first group of singers, most of whom delivered two songs each. Chan Chan made a dramatic entrance with a group of lotus-bearing dancers, and won over the crowd in her normal way: with her nice voice, nice smile and nice pop songs.
The entertainment then took a precipitous dive into a trench of sub-middling sluggishness, kicked off by Sai Sai and his tepid brand of hip-hop lite. At best he can be considered Myanmar’s answer to DJ Jazzy Jeff, but his appearance managed to grab the attention of the small gaggle of 12-year-old girls standing in front of me.
Chit Thu Wai was up next — she’s the antithesis of the angry young woman, with a sweet face and sour voice that together make her the poster child for why actors shouldn’t assume they are good singers just because they’ve been on TV.
Gifted singer-songwriter Lynn Lynn went onstage next, shining an all-too-brief beam of light into the dimness. It’s a shame that a real musician such as Lynn Lynn was allowed to perform only one song while lesser talents were accorded more respect by the concert’s organisers.
Singer Phyoe Gyi marked a return to the forgettable. There was one song about a radio or something, but the toothless quality of the music ensured the complete absence of any lasting impression.