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amazing sounds from the hidden corners of the world

now in very limited release!
the magic of burma
mandalay marionette music

as performed by the mandalay marionettes and cultural show in mandalay, burma

The mysterious and flamboyant Burmese drum and gong ensemble, rarely heard outside Burma (and is increasingly rare within Burma as well).

Although these instruments are somewhat reminiscent of some traditional Thai or Indonesian gong ensembles, this seems almost reckless, sometimes on the verge of falling apart, but suddenly coming together, only to fall into chaos yet again. It's utterly enchanting.

Gong ensembles such as this one accompany a marionette performance.  Stepped in a tradition that draws upon Indian and Chinese influences, it is nevertheless astoundingly unique. Much of the show's ritual dates to the ancient spirit worship of nats, still practiced widely in Burma today alongside Buddhism. Nats are spirits who can help or destroy the lives of humans, and so appeasing them can become rather important. Burmese marionette theatre, or youq-the-pwe, has intricate, ornately detailed puppets, and is considered among many Burmese aesthetes to be most expressive of all Burmese arts.

The gong ensemble at this marionette show, known as kyi waing ("kyi" is pronounced "chi" and translates literally to "metal circle"), forms the core of the marionette ensemble. Each of the 21 or 22 drums are tuned by adding or removing the paste located at the center of each drum head. The paste itself, known as paí sa, or literally, drum food, is made of a mixture of ash and rice powder.

Note:  This music is from a cassette we purchased after watching the marionette show. There is no contact information on the cassette (or any other kind of information, for that matter), and several attempts to contact the Mandalay Marionettes and Cultural Show have gone unanswered.  In a country such as Burma, run by a brutal military junta, this is unfortunately to be expected.  This is the reason that any profits made will go to Burma Forum.

Rare limited release.  Once they're gone, they're gone!

BB001  Mandalay Marionette Music (CD-R)
US$12.00 including shipping (please pay US$14 if out of the country).  We accept PayPal or major credit cards.


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March 18, 2006: Far East Audio Review

Mandalay Marionettes and Cultural Show | The Magic of Burma--Mandalay Marionette Music |Blueberry Buddha | Burma

While Judeo-Christian-Muslim religion tends to emphasize a conformity of thoughts in followers (submission to Allah or accepting Jesus into one's heart), many Eastern religions require instead a conformity of action. It doesn't matter so much how you feel or think about it--as long as you do your ritual duty, the gods and spirits will be content. In places like China and Burma this can lead to some good entertainment. During the Chinese Hungry Ghost Month, for example, it's common for temples to put on operas or screen martial arts films for the entertainment of the spirit world. If the human world just so happens to enjoy a Jackie Chan film in the bargain, that's fine too.

Blueberry Buddha's The magic of Burma: Mandalay Marionette Music represents one of these artistic fringe benefits. Rooted in Burmese traditions of nat (spirit) worship, youq-the-pwe (Burmese puppet theatre) is considered by many to be the country's finest performance genre. The shows, which often portray the lives of various incarnations of Buddha, begin with an offering to the nat made by the puppets themselves. This CD features the loose and exuberant music that accompanies the actions of the wooden performers. Fans of Thai, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian music will find familiar timbres such as double-reeded horn, gongs, and metalophones, but the presence of some very distinct tuned drums gives this music a sound all its own. As it's tied to the action onstage, the music never stays at the same tempo for long. Occasionally, a reverby vocal will enter the mix. It's intriguing, joyful music that would surely be considered avant-garde if it was created by a westerner.

The performers on this disc are those of the Mandalay Marionettes and Cultural Show, an ensemble that often performs for tourists and has toured the United States. Blueberry Buddha's Ken Lee originally purchased this recording as a cassette in Burma after attending a performance. Lee, a musician and activist, has bootlegged that tape for this CD release and is donating all proceeds to the Burma Forum of Los Angeles, a non-profit working towards democracy in Burma. Even if you could find an original copy of this cassette (very doubtful), your money would be helping the military junta of Myanmar. This is one bootleg you can feel good about buying.

Posted by Mack Hagood at 04:00 PM
Far Eastern Audio Review


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