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Music Scenes: Local, Translocal, and Virtual by Andy Bennett & Richard Peterson

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, more commonly known as Burma, is a small Southeast
Asian nation lying between the borders of Bangladesh and Thailand off the Bay of Bengal. Torn by the
remnants of British colonialism and military juntas, Burma has long been considered a pariah state,
seemingly isolated from the rest of the world. While its doors to the outside have only recently been
opened, to many Westerner’s surprise, deep beneath the underbelly of a land lost in time lurks a
growing community of punk rockers.

With about 200 punks in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital city, and another hundred in nearby
Mandalay, Burmese punk rockers are slowly garnering foreign attention through their intense
opposition to mainstream politics and social attitudes. In Andy Bennett and Richard Peterson’s book,
Music Scenes: Local, Translocal, and Virtual, which contains several essays that examine all aspects of
scenes, they define music scenes as “clusters of musicians, producers, and fans that share common
musical tastes and distinct lifestyle choices”, (Bennett & Peterson, 2004). With their multi-colored
spiked hair, leather studded jackets, and anti-authority attitudes, the Burmese punks inspired by the
movements in the UK and the United States, have created a tightly-woven network of youth opposition.

According to Bennett and Peterson, both professors of sociology well versed in popular socio-
musicology, the term “scene” has been used in “journalist discourse, functioning as a cultural resource
for fans to forge collective expressions of ‘underground’ or ‘alternative’ identities”, (Bennett & Peterson,
2004). Scenes are culturally distinct from the mainstream societies in which they are found, and they
come to fruition in three different forms. Translocal scenes are scattered geographic scenes based
around a specific genre and lifestyle, local scenes are geographically contingent, and virtual scenes are
communities connected through the internet or fanzines. In many ways, Myanmar’s punk rockers evoke
characteristics of all three types of scenes.

In its most obvious aspects, Myanmar “punk” is the very definition of a translocal scene. Punk
rock’s roots, which can be traced back to the late 1970’s, established itself as a counter position to the
glam rock, disco, and pop that had been feeding the hands of the music industries both in the US and
UK. The ideology of the scene promoted an ethos of self-reliance and D.I.Y., and the music touted
sociopolitical lyrics that commentated on artistic integrity and personal responsibility. Punk in Myanmar
was cultivated through the appropriation of style and philosophy, discovered via leftover magazines and
memorabilia, depicting the Sex Pistols, Ramones, Buzzcocks, and The Clash, brought over by the few
sailors allowed into the isolated nation, (Whitehead, 2013).

However, Burma’s punk scene is much more than a mere photocopy of its Western
counterpart. It has its own “symbolic economy of authenticity”, where true punkers live in squalor, scoff
at the indulgent lifestyles of ruling elites, and play at the seediest venues out of political protest,
(Grazian in Bennett & Anderson, 2004). Yangon youths have taken the US/UK style punk-rock ethos and
made it wholly their own, creating a collective identity aimed at going against one of the world’s
harshest authoritarian regimes. According to Mickey Vallee, whose review of Music Scenes analyzed its

Sociology.scmp.com/content/9/4/468. (2012. Myanmar’s punk scene is gathering loads of press attention. 2013. and of those willing to speak out against oppression in the hopes of changing the ideas of those around them. and combat boots flooding the internet. safety-pin studded jackets. -Lauren Levine Bibliography. 2013. Today. Bennett. and Virtual. and the search for authenticity is the common thread that links them all. the punk scene stands as a refuge for these disgruntled Burmese youth. (2006). Mohawks in Myanmar: Punk Rock Runs Wild in Yangon . Retrieved October 5. musicians. 219-235. M. from http://thesocietypages. Rotten. angry music. 2006). (2004).spiegel. from http://www. 468-470. it has been made uniquely Myanmese by an underground community of youths. 2013. Retrieved October 5. “Real” punk in Myanmar for many is simply a community of like- minded individuals brought together through discordant. A. following its slight reform after 50 years of strict military rule. Space and Culture. L. A. 2013. (Vallee. whose Music Scenes might be best recommended for students of sociology and music journalism. South China Morning Post. & Peterson. 09(04). (2006).html Vallee. anytime via a network of fans. Dluzak. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. February 24). A. 40(2). and producers. with photographs of rebellious youths clad in Misfits shirts. Vicious Times: Burma's Punk Scene Fights Repression Underground.com/lifestyle/article/1207685/bad- boys . Music Scenes: Local. Punk’s Not Dead: The Continuing Significance of Punk Rock for an Older Generation of Fans.sagepub. This bubbling of internet activity is helping to keep the Yangon punkers connected and the scene evolving. R. (2013. Translocal. April 7). from http://www. In a land where speaking out against the government can often lead to imprisonment.extra Wade. Book Review: Music Scenes: Local.de/international/zeitgeist/rotten-vicious-times-burma-s-punk-scene-fights- repression-underground-a-817185. Bennett and Peterson. argue that scenes can be made anywhere. and Virtual.. punk rock is a true form of rebellion. The Society Pages. from http://sac. Retrieved October 5. APA style Bennett. Punk in Burma: Cultural Appropriation & Resistance . (2013.three core arguments. K. While the scene is an adaptation of Western music movements. and consequently “alternative lifestyle choices have become tolerated and celebrated”. SPIEGEL ONLINE. Translocal. Retrieved October 5. This is largely attributed to the recent influx of journalists and documentarians into Myanmar. April 23). and virtual activity is allowing the scene to further evolve in unpredictable ways.org/socimages/2013/04/23/punk-in-burma- cultural-appropriation-and-resistance/ Whitehead.