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Burma

 

Geography & Topography

Capital:  Naypyidaw

Language: Burmese, Jingpho, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Shan

Ethnic groups:  Burman (68%), Shan (9%), Karen (7%), Rakhine (4%), Chinese (3%), Indian (2%), Mon (2%), other (5%)

Area: 676,578 square kms

Population: 60, 280, 000 people

Currency: Kyat (K)

 

History

Burma, otherwise known by the name Myanmar, is a nation is Southeast Asia. Burma shares borders with 5 other countries: India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. Much of the country’s landscape is made up of uninterrupted coastline along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. It is the second largest country in Southeast Asia and the fortieth largest country in the world. Some of the earliest civilizations of Southeast Asia such as Pyu and Mon are believed to have resided in Burma. From 1926 to 2011, the country was under military rule. The military junta was dissolved and a civilian government was reinstated in 2011 following a general election held in 2010.

Performing Arts

Music

Burma’s musical tradition shares many similarities and has various links to the musical traditions of other nations, namely China and Thailand. Classical Burmese music is generally melodious and without harmony. The tracks tend to have a 4/4, 2/4 or 8/16 tempo. Burmese classical music ensembles are divided into outdoor and indoor ensembles. Outdoor music ensembles are either called ‘sidaw’ or ‘sidawgyi’. These outdoor ensembles were often used to mark important ceremonial functions in the royal courts of yesteryear. Indoor ensembles, on the other hand, are essentially chamber music groups consisting of a female singer and various traditional instruments.

Saung

This instrument is a Burmese variation of the classical harp. There are two variations of the instrument: Byat Saung and Saung Gauk. In the 10th century AD, Burmese harps only contained 5 strings however by the 18th century, this had increased to 7 strings which allowed for greater pitch variety. During the reign of King Bodaw Pharar, harp-playing increased as it was greatly advocated by the king and it was during this period that the number of strings almost doubled to 13 strings. Saungs are traditionally made of ‘Padauk’ which is a type of Burmese mahogany. The flat bar is also made out wood and the body is covered by leather made from a female deer. Probably the most interesting fact about the Burmese harp is that its strings are made out of silk. Due to the costly materials used to construct the instruments, Saungs are generally considered to be quite valuable.

Pat’ Wain

The Pat’ Wain is the leading instrument in the traditional Burmese ensemble known as ‘Hsain Wain’. It is a series of graduated drums which are arranged in a circle. The drums are placed side by side and form a wooden structure which is ornamented on the outside with embedded glass mosaic. The drummer stands inside the circular formation and plays the drums. Four basic characteristics must be met when playing this instrument: the sound emitted must be stable, clear, in tune and loud enough to be heard. The outside of the wooden structure is often decorated quite heavily with elaborate drawings and carvings. The degree of ornamentation depends on whether or not the drums are for common or royal use with the former having less ornamentation whilst the latter has more.


Some Interesting Facts:

  • Burma was officially named Myanmar in 1989 by military dictators who thought Myanmar would be a more suitable name for the country due to its cultural diversity
  • Myanmar celebrates its Independence day on the 4th of January each year
  • Myanmar is  rich in natural resources like petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, some marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas and hydropower.

 

The Burmese Community In Australia:

More information about the Burmese Community: