Department of Anthropology

Ward Keeler: "Why is Burmese pop music so bland and so popular?"

Mon, October 25, 2010 | EPS 1.128

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Burmese have long enjoyed commercial recordings of their own music. To this outsider, the pop music of the 1960s, which melded Burmese instrumentation and some elements of older ways of singing with an international pop music style, represents a highly engaging, accessible but unusual, form of pop music. More recent Burmese popular music shows much less distinctiveness. Instead, like much pop music throughout Southeast Asia, it appears highly derivative: musically predictable as well as lyrically vapid. The question is what explains a shift in aesthetic preferences, away from a uniquely hybrid Burmese pop music to a much more conventionally international one. My aim is not to justify my evaluations but rather to try to account for a change in tastes I find surprising. To do so, I consider what animates evaluations of pop music among Westerners, and why little of Western musical ideology seems to resonate in Burma.

Presented by Dr. Ward Keeler, Associate Professor, UT Department of Anthropology.

Part of the Department of Anthropology 2010-2011 Seminar Series. For further information, please contact Dr. Sofian Merabet at

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