Rangoon Rocks to Reggae
covering burma and southeast asia
Sunday, June 16, 2019
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Rangoon Rocks to Reggae


By THE IRRAWADDY OCTOBER, 2010 - VOL.18 NO.10


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It’s taken more than 30 years, but reggae has finally arrived in Burma, joining rock, blues, rap and hip-hop on the country’s music scene.

At the vanguard of the Burmese reggae movement is a 42-year-old Bob Marley fan, Saw Phoe Kwar, who has named his band “One Love” as a tribute to the Jamaican star and his most famous number.

A correspondent for the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported from Rangoon that Saw Phoe Kwar wears his hair in Marley-style dreadlocks and drapes himself in the Rastafarian colors of red, green and gold when performing on local stages.

Saw Phoe Kyaw
Saw Phoe Kwar fell under the spell of reggae while working alongside West Indian crewmen on a cargo boat nearly 20 years ago.

“I saw freedom in reggae,” he told AFP. “When you compose a reggae song you don’t need to use a lot of words, but they are very meaningful words. We have more freedom than in other kinds of music.”

Saw Phoe Kwar’s freedom as a reggae performer and composer still depends on the whim of Burma’s censors, however. He also has a problem explaining to tone-deaf censors just what reggae is—and trying to assure them that it contains nothing subversive.

“I want to close the gap between the people and the government,” Saw Phoe Kwar told AFP. “When the gap is closed, the other artists and I can compose more freely. I hope the gap will close in my lifetime.”

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