Pantra Sein Hla Myaing (MM)
Pantra Sein Hla Myaing (MM)
Due to nearly 50 years of uninterrupted military dictatorship in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and the cultural isolation that accompanied it, traditional Bamar music appears to be nearly fully preserved. Central to this vibrant musical culture is the traditional hsaing waing ensemble, unique in all the world in its makeup, which features instruments like the diatonic drum circle (pat waing) and a circle composed of 37 knobbed gongs (maung zaing).
One very original and unpolished manifestation of this traditional music comes in the form of the nat pwe ceremony, in which contact to the 37 spirits of the intermediary realm (or wai zay yan thar) is initiated and facilitated by a medium (who dances and sings in the process). This belief system is very widespread in Myanmar and is held and practiced by individuals from all layers of society and educational backgrounds. At such a nat pwe ceremony the six-member orchestra interacts with the state of consciousness of the medium, who for his or her part surrenders him or herself to a dance-like purification ritual. All of those who choose to participate in the ceremony can open themselves to the communication with the musicians and thus, like the medium, become part of the trance-like ritual – including the audience of course! When first experiencing a nat pwe ceremony, our German or Western associations may include images of séances, traditional German marksmen’s fairs, unconventional therapy sessions and village disco festivities, all rolled into one.
The centuries-old, distinct Bamar culture is today absolutely open for influences and interventions from other cultures and genres. Musical motifs and themes found here offer far-reaching possibilities for improvisatory elaboration in terms of duration, dynamics or tonality.
For the listening habits of those socialised in the West, the typical associations that arise may be to minimal music, punk, drone or free jazz. Constantly new, rhythmically dense soundscapes emerge from the psychedelic swirling and flowing layers of tonal material.
Bandleader Sein Hla Myaing is an absolute virtuoso on the pat waing, which consists of 21 diatonically tuned drums, hung in a circle, and serves as the primary melodic instrument in Burmese music. His six-member ensemble is expanded by two gong players on the maung zaing and kyi waing as well as a reed player on the Burmese oboe-like hne. These four melody instruments toss motifs, garlands of sound, flourishes and variations back and forth to one another while underneath it all bass drums (chauk lone pat, pat ma, sa khun, sido), massive bass gongs, cymbals (lingwin) and other small percussion instruments churn away. The ensemble also includes two nat kadaw – magnificently costumed and elaborately made-up dancers and singers.
In addition to their performance in the festival hall, Pantra Sein Hla Myaing will also be playing a night concert at the newly designed festival village square. Within the framework of the supporting program, there will also be a lecture with a subsequent Q&A presented by Burmese musicologist Ne Myo Aung.