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Thangyat performances, a traditional music that accompanies New Year’s Thingyan Water Festival, is now legal in Burma.
The historic art is a cornerstone in the country’s New Year celebrations, where singers dance and engage in call and response anthems, while joking about the events of the past year. However, the performance had been officially snubbed for three decades by several laws that were aimed at preventing citizens from assembling and chanting slogans.
Mandalay-based writer Sue Hngat says Thingyan and Thangyat are inseparable.
“It’s been over 30 years – Thingyan and Thangyat are the two things that cannot be separated because Thingyan is for the people and it should be free for all and should not be monopolised by any individual or a group. This also applies to Thangyat to an extent,” says Sue Hngat.
To celebrate its return, Mandalay-based comedian Pa Pa Lay of the Moustache Brothers said the group will perform Thangyat songs on a float during the parades in Mandalay. According to the mustached comedian, the troupe will perform satirical numbers that address the country’s education, health, economy and judicial sectors.
“The people of Mandalay have been waiting to hear Thangyat again so Pa Pa Lay is organising the performance together with his other comedian friends,” said Lu Maw, Pa Pa Lay’s brother and fellow mustached brother.
He said other Mandalay comedians including Thabyay Jar Aye, Depar and Aung Khine will be joining the performance; however, the group may be unable to perform throughout the five days of the holiday due to high cost of supplying the needed petrol required to fuel their float.
Mandalay, which many consider the cultural centre of Burma, was home to about 40 Thangyat groups in the past.
Mandalay based writers including Soe Aung, Khin Aung Wint and San Win Shein and some poets are also organising their own Thangyat performances during the festival. Renowned Myoma Orchestra will perform the traditional music on their float as well.
Meanwhile, pavilions are being set up around Mandalay’s moat where popular bands and musicians will host concerts.