With a flamboyant wardrobe and a diva’s voice, she’s seen as Myanmar’s Lady Gaga — a rare pop star in a country where years of isolation have left musicians reliant on borrowed foreign tunes.
Singing Burmese translations of international hits like Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’, Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein is famed for her feathered masquerade masks, rhinestone glamour and dramatic ball gowns.
But she shrugs off the Lady Gaga comparison, saying she was shocking fans with her outfits in an eight-year career well before the US star made it big: “No offence, but it’s the truth.”
Myanmar pop is dominated by copies of international tunes. Only a few artists are able to struggle into the mainstream in the country, where rampant piracy has suffocated the music industry and strict censorship controlled everything from lyrics to outfits.
But sweeping reforms after the end of junta rule last year raise the prospect of exposure to the influence — and copyright laws — of the outside world and hopes of a shake-up.
Myanmar has indicated it will review its copyright laws to bring them into line with international standards, although it is unclear when that process might take place.
Government moves to relax control of the Internet mean music fans can now access thousands of tunes on YouTube.
Douglas Long, editor of the entertainment section at the Myanmar Times, said, “It would be nice to see a system here where bands feel more comfortable breaking new ground or creating a distinct Myanmar scene,” he said.
Nikki May, the manager of band Me N Ma Girls, said, “If there are copyright issues (musicians) are never going to be able to get outside Myanmar.”