The first I ever learned of Myanmar was on the hand of a Myanma Man who worked in the produce section of my grocery store. He was a happy guy that seemed impressed with my regular travels. When I asked where he was from, he demonstrated on his hand, the same kind of demo a person from Michigan might give when describing the location of their hometown. If your wrist is Thailand, and your thumb is Bangladesh, then the fatty heel of the palm is essentially Myanmar, known to many by its former name, Burma. The rest of your hand pretty much belongs to China.
Myanmar has been in the news a lot recently, especially since the 2010 release of democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, showcasing the military’s move toward openness and domestic reform. Decade long sanctions against Myanmar have essentially cut-off the country from the developing world. A read of the sad second paragraph on Wikipedia about Burma sums it up.
My visit to Myanmar won’t be for government business however. Nor will it be a business venture. I’m not there to promote an album or sell ringtones to a burgeoning market. Nor am I there as an activist or even a tourist. As a guest and performer of MTV Exit, Live From Myanmar, my role is simple: Engage, Educate, & Empower the youth in an effort to End Exploitation and Human Trafficking. In a country whose windows were recently opened to download new information, I am going there to serve as a pop-up window; an ambassador of awareness; to share music and information that could potentially save lives.
Yesterday I discovered more than 50,000 tickets have been claimed for the free concert in People’s Square where the stage will be positioned near Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. While I am confident our music will provide some familiarity, I assume a good portion of the tickets have been reserved by the curious. MTV Exit, Live In Myanmar will be the first open air concert in the history of the new country to feature an international artist. Am I nervous? Absolutely. But it takes a little fear to understand how strong you are and what you’re capable of.
MTV Exit is a long-running program in Asia. The 10 year old foundation has hosted more than 30 concerts across the region, with television specials, documentaries and regular broadcasts educating a new generation of viewers on the issues of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Audiences far and wide are aware of MTV’s presence. And with a line up of Myanmar’s top acts, the event is sure to make a noise. It excites me to know a concert addressing the realities and horrors of human trafficking has garnered this much attention and I am honored to be invited to sing as well as stand as an ally in the fight to end modern day slavery. I know my grocer will be proud.
Check out http://mtvexit.org/liveinmyanmar/ and take action to help me spread the message and save lives. And check back to this blog soon for more updates and observations. And thanks for reading! – Jason