Lots of cool music happening in these parts at the Arab/Middle-Eastern/North-African/Jazz/New-Music intersection. (It’s a busy intersection.) I caught Brahim Fribgane‘s great Andalusian/Moroccan project last week at Terraza 7 in Queens; band and venue both highly recommended. A few days earlier I’d seen Amino Belyamani‘s Dawn of Midi turn in a mesmerizing set at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan.
Fribgane and Belyamani shared the stage with a bunch of others in January at a festival that’s emerging as a meeting-of-the-minds for this scene. (I think it’s fair to call it a scene. It’s a scene, right?) The festival is called Maqam Fest, it’s put on by Alwan for the Arts, and curated by multi-talented Amir ElSaffar. Here’s the story I did for The World.
From the left: Ole Mathisen, Amir ElSaffar, and Dena El Saffar of the group Salaam at Maqam Fest in January.
One thing with potential to bring positive change to Myanmar is the Comprehensive Education Sector Review. (Policy types = not so good with punchy titles.) A bunch of experts from all over are digging in and trying to build a qualitative, broad picture of the country’s creaky education system.
I got a chance to see one small piece of that system–a free elementary school run by a Buddhist monastery near Yangon. Here’s the story I did for The World.
Phoo Myint Mo and Chit Loon Oo, two students at Thiri Mingalar Monastic School in Pyi Thar Township near Yangon.
I hurried up to Mandalay planning to head from there to Monywa, where ongoing protests against a Chinese-owned copper mine had just been broken up pretty violently by local security forces. When I got to Mandalay, though, I found out that The World already had someone in Monywa covering the demonstration. (Sometimes communication breaks down a bit when there’s an 11-and-a-half-hour difference between reporter and editor.)
So there I was in Mandalay. Here’s the story I cobbled together.
Signs on the stage at the Moustache Brothers’ space in Mandalay. Par Par Lay and Aung San Suu Kyi are in the photo behind the signs.
I met Ah Noh of the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) a couple years ago when she was in New York for meetings at the U.N. She and Debbie Stothard of ALTSEAN Burma talked to a small group at Columbia about the current situation in Kachin State. I got back in touch with her when I was heading to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where KWAT is based. We met and Ah Noh filled me in on what KWAT was working on, and a few days later she hosted me at her church.
Here’s the story I did for The World about that visit, and what the current situation for ethnic minorities in Burma looks like seen across the border in Chiang Mai.
Christmas tree and a young worshiper at Wunpawng Church in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
42 members of the National League for Democracy won parliamentary seats in April’s by-election in Myanmar. You’ve probably heard of at least one of them. I got to sit down with another one of them while I was in Yangon in December. Phyu Phyu Thin is a longtime HIV/AIDS activist, and now an MP representing Mingalar Taung Nyunt in Yangon.
Here’s the profile I did for The World.
Phyu Phyu Thin on the campaign trail. (Photo: Htoo Tay Zar/Wikipedia)
One thing that struck me as I got into some of the policy issues at play in Thailand’s migrant worker laws is how similar they are to ones being debated in the U.S., and how Thailand has tackled them more actively and successfully than we have. The Thai system is still a mess, though.
Here’s a story I did for The World about new wrinkles in the Thai system for giving migrant workers from neighboring countries legal status.
Public bathrooms at a migrant worker camp outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A trishaw driver association parading down Pansodan Street in Yangon, on their way to deliver offerings to a Buddhist monastery.
U Pyinya Zawta, a Burmese Buddhist monk I know here in Brooklyn, told me that tazaungdaing was happening the day I arrived in Myanmar. I was all “tazaungwhat?” and he explained that it was a big deal–the end of a month of offerings people make to monasteries. Kind of like a Burmese Buddhist Christmas, he said, only giving stuff instead of getting stuff.
So when I got to Yangon on November 28, I fought off the jet lag and went out to see what I could see. Here’s an audio slideshow I produced for The World.
Irrawaddy Magazine covers from the mid-2000s hang in a conference room at the publication’s Chiang Mai offices.
I’ve been reading the Irrawaddy since I first got interested in Burma three years ago. (Back then most people I talked to still called it “Burma.”) So I was excited to look them up when I got to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they’ve been based since the ’90s.
More excited still to find out that they were, the week I arrived in Chiang Mai, publishing their first issue openly inside of Burma/Myanmar. Here’s the story I did for The World about exile media going home.