“Without music, life would be a mistake,” said German philosopher Friedrick Nietzsche.
Music has never been merely a form of entertainment for me. It is a channel or portal to be merged with the energy that governs the universe. Have you ever been lost in the music? Like you’ve lost your sense of self and you’re the music, or you’re one with the music. The feeling is so real it’s as if you’ve transcended the illusions of the world and become one with the universe.
According to Nicola Tesla, the universe is made up of frequency and vibration of energy. All organisms on this planet use vibration i.e., energy, as the primary means of communication. Music is a combination or a set of frequencies and vibrations of the sounds played by musicians using different instruments or plug-ins. When the sound waves hit you, there’s a lot of things happening in our body and the mind.
For instance, music has the power to evoke strong feelings, alter moods, and even influence physiological responses like heart rate and stress hormone levels. These psychological and emotional effects can indirectly influence the overall state of our bodies.
Listening to music that you enjoy can stimulate the release of dopamine – the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, leading to feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Listening to music that resonates with you emotionally, can lead to the release of oxytocin which is associated with social bonding, trust, and empathy.
Music also has a positive impact on serotonin levels, contributing to improved mood and reduced anxiety. As a musician – the frontman of the indie band Side Effect and the director of Turning Tables Myanmar – I worked really hard with creative young people to bridge the divides and bring them together by running projects like Voice of the Youth.
It was challenging and energy-draining but I had a feeling that freedom to express your thoughts artistically was not permanently guaranteed. We were pushing the boundaries so hard hoping it wouldn’t revert back to the status quo.
Now in post-coup Myanmar, the situation returned to as it was 20 years ago. In fact, it’s even worse. Because now there’s a narrative that sees performing music as having fun when the country is on fire. That makes it harder for musical souls to reconnect with themselves and share their gifts with the world. Some of those who managed to push themselves to get out of comfort zones and do their art gets boycotted and canceled, being viewed as the ones who support the military coup by showing things are back to normal.
Some artists released new albums and held listening parties at low-key bars or nightclubs. Some big names who used to play on-stage are now playing at restaurants and bars because of the lack of opportunity to regain their access to stardom. Some fans are heartbroken to see their stars being offended by drunk people at bars and pubs.
Nightclubs seem to be exceptional in this case. They are full of people partying and dancing, according to what I heard from a party organizer in Yangon. Many are canceling these party-goers on social media. They might be trying too hard to get lost in the music in order to escape from reality, or they’re just a bunch of spoiled brats who have no empathy for the people who are being persecuted.
Most of the artists that I used to work with are now in this phase of uncertainty, being angry and sad, not knowing what the future holds, dealing with self-censorship when writing new songs because they know what is going to happen if they express the truth or their true feelings. Even when they try to make a song about what is happening, it’s too much to think of all the atrocities that the military conducted.
The music scene is slowly being encroached upon by opportunists whose talents are not that great. It is actually in danger of being dominated by the wannabes who are the relatives of military officials, or its supporters, like in the old days. We need to reclaim these creative spaces where we feel safe to be ourselves, connect with others and build social bonding. But how?
What will you do when one side is abusing your rights to express and another is threatening to cancel you for doing what you do for a living? What about the people? People need art to heal themselves from depression and anxiety, to align their existence with the universe.
I understand the idea of boycotting fun until the revolution wins but we also need to understand the fundamental human need for happiness, especially in places like Myanmar. Being happy with what is left doesn’t mean that you are happy with your country’s political situation and civil war. It is just resiliency.
One of the military’s tactics is to make people’s lives miserable by revoking our access to free spaces that allow us to freely express and connect while permitting so-called high rooms where people can do drugs freely by paying for the whole night to party and leave in the morning. Most of those sketchy places are owned by people who have close relationships with the military, of course.
They are destroying the mindset of Myanmar youth by urging them to become drug-addicts instead of nurturing their creativity. It’s like their protection plan. If the youth are depressed or addicted, they can be more controllable and harmless.
The creative forces need to be protected too because they play a crucial and multifaceted role in the development, identity, and well-being of a country. Their contributions extend beyond mere entertainment, often shaping culture, society, and even the economy.
Anyone who is condemning creative activities such as the music scene should reconsider their views because you may be unconsciously supporting the military’s tactics on keeping people miserable. The show must go on.
Darko C is frontman for Side Effect and director of Turning Tables Myanmar. He fled Burma with his family into Thailand in 2021. He now resides in Austin, Texas.
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