Burma's Punk Scene Fights Repression Underground


Ko Nyan organizes most of these punk concerts. The 38-year-old makes a living selling punk T-shirts and CDs at a market stand in Rangoon. He is also one of Burma's original punks. In the mid 1990s, he read an article about the Sex Pistols, the legendary British punk band, in a music magazine he fished out of the British Embassy's garbage. Ko and his friends try to imitate the look of the musicians they saw, which comes as a shock to their countrymen. "When we walk through the market, everyone just stops and stares at us," he says. "They have no idea what punk is and just think we are crazy."

Sailors brought the first punk tapes to Burma from their travels to the West. "They were the only ones allowed to leave," Ko says. "They were the ones who brought punk to Burma."

Though it is a bit easier to leave the country these days, he still doesn't trust the regime. "We live in a damn police state in which we're risking our lives," Ko says. "In Burma, punk is not a game. It's a way of life -- and for that we deserve respect." He then closes up his shop and steps out into the streets of Rangoon, a city where punk is an act of genuine rebellion.

Translated from the German by Ranuka Rayasam

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