Around 70,000 music fans flocked to People’s Square east of Shwedagon Pagoda on Sunday, December 16 to enjoy a concert by two-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, supported by a cast of some of Myanmar’s most accomplished musicians.
The crowd estimate was according to a press statement released by the concert’s organisers, MTV Exit, the day after the event, which was aimed at not only entertaining the audience, but also educating people about issues related to human trafficking.
At a press conference held at Summit Parkview Hotel a few hours before the concert started, Mraz said he has had some experience working with survivors of human trafficking, and he felt it was “important” to be part of the concert in Yangon.
“We are expecting about 50,000 people today, and who knows how many more — hundreds of thousand, millions of people — will watching the programs, series and documentaries that will follow,” he said.
“If the people see that, they can say, ‘I know what that is now’ or ‘I’ve seen that this is happening’. People are waking up every day to the issue [of human trafficking].”
He added that after he goes back to the US, the experience of playing in Yangon will stick with him for a long time.
“It’s going to stick with me, what we will be able to accomplish here today. I’ll be able to tell people about the things I saw and music I heard. The story will be told and more people will know about this place. And those are the best souvenirs.”
The excitement generated by the concert was obvious even before the gates opened at 4pm, as a big crowd gathered of people keen to secure places close to the huge stage.
Among the local musicians who performed were R Zarni, Lynn Lynn, Sai Sai Kham Hlaing, Phyoe Gyi, Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, Chit Thu Wai and Chan Chan, with backing music provided by The Trees.
Slot Machine from Thailand played about six songs, while Mraz and his band belted out more than 10 tunes, ending with “I’m Yours”, his most famous song among Myanmar fans.
The huge crowd was generally enthusiastic about the show.
“No world-famous singers come to Myanmar, so I was curious to see what kind of performances there would be at this concert,” audience member Htut Myat Thu told The Myanmar Times at the venue
“Up to now I’ve only seen these kinds of concerts on TV. This is the biggest concert I’ve ever seen in my country. I’m so excited.”
He added that it was the first time for Myanmar singers to perform alongside a world-famous act, which revealed some of the weaknesses of the local music scene.
“There are many differences in the level of performance between local singers and international acts. I hope the local singers can do better next time,” he said.
On Tuesday, December 18, just before he left Yangon, Mraz toured Shwedagon Pagoda, met with survivors of human trafficking and filmed with MTV EXIT for an upcoming television special.
The Yangon concert will be broadcast internationally on MTV on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.