Darko C

His father didn’t want it, but Darko C became a musician anyway. And now he is the frontman of Side Effect, one of the first Burmese bands to play outside of Myanmar. Just like Pauk Si, Thazin and Triple-A (Y.A.K.), Darko is another example of a ‘self-made-musician’. Twenty years ago, there was even less musical education as there is now in Myanmar. His dad had a big guitar at home. It was bigger than Darko himself but Darko took it to his friends anyway. He watched how the others played with it. Afterwards, he started to pluck the strings himself and it became his biggest outlet.

Darko stopped listening to Burmese music, stating there are too many pop songs and there is too much industrialization of the music scene in his opinion. Just like Nay Win Htun, he denounces the ‘copy songs’ as he feels the phenomenon is killing the original music scene in Myanmar. He described the process of creating a ‘copy song’. A singer or label asks somebody to translate the lyrics of a foreign song into Burmese or write them lyrics in Burmese to fit the existing music. Next, they search musicians to play the instrumentals for them. After the instrumental version is recorded, the singer records his or her vocals and the songs gets published. Often times, none of the musicians meet during the recording process. All the separate pieces get put together like a puzzle. The approach is completely different from how Side Effect operates, where every member of the band has a say in writing the songs.

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Darko C at the headquarters of Turning Tables (© Arne Aelterman)

Generally, Burmese people don’t know the original songs. As a result, they consume the industrialized songs as new music. This makes it hard for musicians like Darko C who need more time to experiment with music and write songs. The fact that Darko is very vocal about Myanmar’s political situation makes his songs less marketable. Just like Y.A.K., Side Effect sings about political and cultural issues, as opposed to mainstream Burmese pop music which largely sings about love. Burmese music used to be censored by the military regime, which made speaking out dangerous. But even now, without official censorship, many musicians censor themselves. Besides, the new government instituted a ‘defamation law’, meaning the government can sue people for publicly speaking out against political figures in any derogatory way.

If we would sing a song with a name like: ‘Fuck you, Mr President’ or ‘Fuck Aung San Suu Kyi’, people would hate us, the government would hate it, they would sue us and we would be going to jail.”

However, Darko C really cares about human rights and freedom of speech. Which is why he founded Turning Tables and started ‘the Voice of the Youth’. VOY is a project that teaches Burmese youngsters about human rights, freedom of speech, peace and social cohesion using film and music as training tools. “We are like a megaphone for them, to help them raise their voice”, Darko said. The members of Turning Tables are trying to push boundaries, trying to change Myanmar for the better by educating its youth. Not just in Yangon, but in many different places around the country.

All members of Side Effect are currently working for Turning Tables and are indirectly involved in ‘the Voice of the Youth Festival’, a big festival in Yangon where young and promising musicians are given the stage. Many of these bands and musicians have been discovered during training tours all around Myanmar. Last year, approximately forty bands and artists performed over a period of two days. It was a big challenge, Darko admits, as 10.000 people attended the festival last year, spread over two days. And the festival keeps on growing.