By ARKAR MOE
The influential Shan composer Sai Kham Lait celebrated his 60th birthday in Mandalay on Sunday.
Mandalay figured in the song that made him famous— “A Shan Living in Mandalay.” The song featured on the album “Losing Heaven,” which Sai Kham Lait recorded with the late singer Sai Htee Saing.
The two founded “The Wild ones” group in 1974, and led a new trend in Burmese music.
Sai Kham Lait said in 2003 that his experience as an ethnic minority student had led him to compose “A Shan Living in Mandalay.” The song became one of the biggest hits in Burmese music history.
While Sai Kham Lait retained his popularity, Sai Htee Saing lost his following after succumbing to the temptations of promoting government ideology, notably after 1988.
A Shan friend, Sein Kyi said: “We, especially Shan young people, should thank him because we got to know our own literature, culture and history by listening to his songs more than 20 years ago. He encouraged and motivated young people with his songs and artistic power.”
Sai Kham Lait composed more than 600 songs in the Shan language, 500 in Burmese and some 35 in English. He has also written several novels and poems.
The lyrics of his songs deal with Shan issues, eluding official censorship by conveying political messages through hidden meanings. In this way, he helped pave the way for other ethnic singers who have become established figures in Burma’s music industry, and his songs served as a “bridge” between Shan and other ethnic groups.
One fan, Tun Tun, said: “By listening to the songs of Sai Kham Lait, I know the feelings of ethnic minorities and indigenous people and understand their culture. I greatly admire his art and creativity.”
Among well-wishers was the popular singer Bo Phyu, who said: “I wish him good health and a long life.”