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What type of music comes from Myanmar?

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Quick Answer

Music of Myanmar, also known as Burmese music, relies on melody without harmony, is usually in 4/4, 2/4 time or 8/16 time, and is related to Chinese and Thai music. Since the instruments used in this music tradition employ a nonchromatic scale, the melodies can sound a bit flat to those more familiar with Western music. Typical Burmese musical instruments are the brass se, the reed hne, the bamboo wa and the saung kauk, a harp shaped like a boat.

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In contrast to Western vocals that keep rhythm with syllables, Burmese singers concentrate on the arrangement of words with certain sounds recurring at fixed points in the verse. The singer typically keeps time with a pair of small bells and a clapper in her hand. In a simple duple beat, the bells and the clapper sound alternately, and in a simple quadruple beat, the singer rests on one of the middle beats. The traditional Burmese folk ensemble, called the hsaing waing, uses a set of pipes, drums and gongs, including the pat waing or hsaing wan, which is a set of 21 tuned drums placed in a circle.

In the early 20th century, Socialists controlling the country often suppressed traditional Burmese music. In the year 2000, the Myanmar government eased regulations on censorship. This has led to the rise of new musical groups who compose, record and perform traditional Burmese music.

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