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The Burmese Junta Couldn’t Keep Metal Down. Now There’s a Metal Revolution

Burma–sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to call it Myanmar–was for decades rules by a bunch of ultra-repressive military thugs. But with things now opening up, it turns out that there was a metal underground in the country all along. The Daily Beast reports:

YANGON, Burma — This commercial capital might be a daylight city, but 19th Street in Chinatown comes alive after dark. Visitors down rounds of 80-cent mojitos and sip Myanmar Beer, but locals seem to prefer imported lagers, like Singapore’s Tiger or Thailand’s Chang. Whatever their poison of choice, it’s the perfect way to wind down and wash away the unavoidable dust and grime. Even among the Southeast Asian countries, Burma is cheap, and remains relatively untouched.

A stroll in downtown Yangon means exposure to all manner of sensory assault. Masticated betel nuts and their juice stain red the sidewalks and outer walls of every building. Car horns never stop. Loudspeakers blast looped messages asking passers-by to drop a few spare notes into an alms bowl. Sugar cane juicers, dessert mixers, and mohinga noodle sellers never stop slinging out their offerings. Color, smell, sound—it never ceases as long as there is daylight. Under technicolor tents, it’s impossible to miss the hawkers selling pirated DVDs and MP3 collections. The Interview can be bought for 400 kyat, or a little under US$0.40. A disc holding thousands of songs, collecting Ariana Grande and Metallica into the same volume, goes for about the same rate. There’s no shortage of foreign media in Burma’s biggest and most famous city, and it’s being consumed like never before.

Over chilled bottled beers and barbecued chicken bits, Moe Lone shared his love for heavy metal. “I like [Iowa-based] Slipknot and [Osaka-rooted] Crossfaith,” he said, “but I listen to so many others too.” Moe is the lead singer of a Burmese heavy metal band called Darkest Tears From My Heart. They’ve been around since 2007, growing from two members to a roster of the current five. Last year, Moe Lone’s band released a joint-album with three other Burmese heavy metal bands, and it is currently the seventh best selling album in the country, but they still only play two or three shows a year. The permits for public music performances in Yangon are too expensive, usually in the range of US$700 to US$1,000, and venues aren’t too receptive to their style of music. Worse yet, in a city prone to power cuts, playing a live show means blowing the fuse several times when the band is on stage.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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