Monday, September 25, 2017

The winner does not take it all

In some Burmese singing contests it is better not to win.

Zhaw Khun during the X Factor contest. Photo: SuppliedZhaw Khun during the X Factor contest. Photo: Supplied

SUCCESS stories are a great source of motivation for youngsters. We’re all titillated by stories about how a person went from rags to riches. In today’s Myanmar social media are a quick and easy way to make it to the top (see next story). But what about singing competitions? Can they really make your dream come true?

Televised singing competitions are not a new thing in Myanmar. Already in 1998 families watched “So Kya Mal, Pyaw Kya Mel” (Literally “Let’s sing, Let’s cachinnate”), aired on the military-controlled Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV). The show ran for over 20 years.

In 2007, “Melody World” appeared on Myawaddy TV, another State-owned media. “Melody World” ran eleven seasons and produced eleven winners. None of them became pop stars. Although three “outsiders made headways”. A pattern started to emerge.

After the transition, televised song contests boomed. In 2012, “Eain Mat Sone Yar” (“Where dreams meet”) went on air. Myanmar also imported international brands such as “X-Factor” and “Myanmar Idol”. These are not mere competitions, but a national phenomenon. The competition that’s hot right now is Galaxy Star 2017, sponsored by Samsung.

However, none of these competitions’ crowned kings or queens found their audience after they won the contest. But outsiders did.

Only pop can judge me

Some try though. “Competition doesn’t last forever and people will forget about you when a contest ends,” says Ko Thang Thang one of the top 10 contestants of “Eain Mat Sone Yar, Yar Thet Pan” season 2. Though defeated, Thang Thang has made a mark with his first album “A shoe doesn’t fit me”.

“When I was in sixth standard, I competed in a children singing contest ‘Starlet’s Sky’,” says Hnin Pwint Phyu Oo “I only won the second prize”. That was also her fate in “Eain Mat Sone Yar” where she failed to win the top prize. She is recording an album this year, the winner of “Eain Mat Sone Yar” hasn’t.

Losing in Myanmar singing contests, it seems, is far much better than winning them.

“Singing Contest can connect you with a fan base,” said Irene Zinmar Myaint, who at the time did not even make to the top 5 of Melody World. Today she is one to the most popular singer in the country. Her albums are absolute hits.

“Losing a singing contest depends on the opinion of judges,” says Zhaw Khun who participated in “Myanmar Idol”, “X-factor” and “Melody World.”

“But it doesn’t mean you can’t be the famous singer,” he added.

He has lost all the competitions he joined but he is unrelenting in the pursuit of his dream. Whether Zaw Khun is a winner will be decided by the Burmese public.


Translation by Kyaw Soe Htet,Zar Zar Soe and Win Thaw Tar