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The Origin of Myanmar Music


There are three theories on the origin of Myanmar music. The first states that Myanmar people were traditional farmers and the music was created to accompany their agricultural activities. The second theory states that Myan mar people worshiped nats (spirits) before Buddha Sasana arrived and the music was part of the ritual to propitiate the nats. The third theory states that when Buddhism spread throughout the country originating from Thaton and Hanthawady, the devotees paid homage by holding pagoda festivals.

Myanmar's history of music can be divided into six periods for study: Thaton, Thaye Khittaya, Bagan Inwa, Konbaung and the later period. People used music to celebrate different rituals and occasions relevant to their land and personal life events. Singing and dancing at festivals is evidenced on clay tablets of the 5th to 11th century found in the environs of Thaton and Bago. It is also known that a Pyu cultural delegation visited China during this period and they had brass musical instruments, conches, string instruments, and other instruments made of bamboo, leather, ivory, gourd and horn.

The Chinese records show that Pyu music was quite developed at that time. The 18th to 19th century was the Konbaung period. The capture of Zinme, Linzin, Ayudhaya by Alaungmintaya's son Hsinbyushin resulted in the movement of musicians to Inwa. The arrival of ambassadors from China allowed the Myanmar to listen to Chinese music. The employment of Portuguese artillery men exposed Myanmar to hymns, and Myanmar also became familiar with the music of Manipur cavalry.