Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burma's Youth Rapping for Revolution

Download This year looks set to be a crucial one for Burma.

The military government has announced that the first elections for 20 years will be held on November the 7th and international attention is likely to be focused on the detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But there is another group working to bring about change in Burma whose methods are less conventional.

Generation Wave is a group of hip-hop-loving, young Burmese, dedicated to overthrowing the military government.

They are boycotting the election and demanding a social revolution.

Banyar Kong Janoi went to meet them in Rangoon.

‘Don’t give up! Be brave to say what is not right!’ rap Generation Wave.

Their song is being played in Burma on the foreign-based television station, the Democratic Voice of Burma.

The song is amusing and the film clip shows four members of Generation Wave wearing masks and bouncing around.

They act out the military junta arresting, torturing, and imprisoning political activists.

Generation Wave asks people to overthrow the military regime with them.

26-year-old, Pakker is watching the music video closely. He, like many young Burmese, is a big fan of Generation Wave.

“The song is very important for young people because we can learn from the lyrics. The message from the music goes to your heart. The more the youth become knowledgeable the better society will be. This song informs us about the election. After listening to it we will know whether it’s worthwhile for us to vote.”

Aung Than Htike is one of the singers in Generation Wave based in Rangoon.

We met in a public space near the sea so we will not stand out.

“We are activists. We send messages to people in different ways. Music is one of our tools to send our messages. We also recently published a poem and distributed it to the people. Sometimes we use graffiti on walls. Whatever we can do, we will do to it to raise the awareness of people.”

For this he is a wanted man in Burma.

He keeps his home address and daily movements secret.

He says he nearly got caught by the state police last year.

“I was working underground but when one of my colleagues got arrested the police got our profiles. I was put on the wanted list by the military regime. A year ago the police came to ask questions about me but they did nothing to them. The police watched my house for about three months.”

About 30 Generation Wave members have already been arrested.

Aung says he has to think carefully about where he stays and is always checking to see if someone is following him.

But despite the risks they are campaigning against the election.

A founder of Generation Wave, Min Yang, says the poll is meaningless.

“The 2010 election is not fair because it’s based on a constitution that we do not accept. We are boycotting the election because we don’t want to stay as slaves to the military for the rest of our lives. That’s why we are campaigning among the people. We are forming alliances with other youth groups to protest as much as we can. If we get more space to carry out our activities we will do more.”

Generation Wave is grounded in harsh reality.

The organisation grew out of what became known as the Saffron Revolution - the 2007 protests led by saffron robed monks, who were violently put down by the Burmese military.

“We didn’t want the revolution to end just like that. After the September uprising nothing changed in our country. As young people we are not satisfied; we demand change. We want freedom from the military rule as soon as possible. So we campaign using music and graffiti to let people know about their rights.”

He says their group attracts young people to politics.

“Politics is about our daily survival. Our economic problems are due to our political situation. What we are doing now is to let people get interested in politics because people should know about politics. It is so our country can be changed and our living standard can be changed."

He says he is very happy that many young people are now involved in the movement.

“After 2007, many youth are interested in politics. They are involved in social work. Based on this fact, we want to make some change in the country because our country’s politics, economy and education are far behind other countries. So we will do whatever we have to do, to change our country with non-violent ways such as involving social working and music campaigns.”

Back at the house receiving the DVB TV channel which is broadcasting a Generation Wave song, a community leader Nai Hla Thein says music is the only language in which young people are interested.

“Many young people are interested in Generation Wave songs that were broadcast from the DVB TV channel. This is a good sign because many young generations do not understand the country politics such as rights abuse, inequality. They even don’t know that the peoples’ leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is struggling. By listening to their music and visualizing the picture in TV, many people learn a lot what they don’t know yet about our country. We want to see these kinds of activities more in the future.”

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