Myanmar has a new pop sensation, ladies and gentleman, and his name is Phyo Myat Aung!
By JARED DOWNING | FRONTIER
AS FRONTIER’S hard-hitting entertainment reporter, I was instructed to file a despatch from his semi-final semi-final victory (after securing a free ticket) about the cultural significance of Phyo Myat Aung’s meteoric rise to fame. Unfortunately though I was unable to learn much about either the winner or the third season of Myanmar Idol, so I present some random observations instead.
It was the semi-final results show. The three remaining contestants had sung their best before a panel of judges, and now one of them would go home. Under the dazzling lights of a packed coliseum, my friends and I threw our support behind a young man in a sharp blue blazer: contestant number 7, Phyo Myat Aung.
We were entranced by his humble charisma and quiet aplomb…but also because we happened to be sitting in his section of the stands and were showered with Phyo Myat Aung swag, including headbands and signs.
“Phyo Myat Aung! Phyo Myat Aung!” our section chorused, exploding into cheers and high-fiving one another at the mere mention of his name by the tuxedoed host (whom I dubbed Ko Ryan Seacrest).
They showed a brief video explaining Phyo Myat Aung’s journey to stardom, but as it was in Myanmar language, I invented my own Phyo Myat Aung backstory: his chance meeting with washed-up voice coach U “Shwe Mandalar” Htet; his big break at the Myanmar Idol audition and dazzling success in the preliminaries; his slow descent into the trappings of stardom that would tear him apart from the woman he loved; his explosive row with Shwe Mandalar that left him alone and rudderless at the very cusp of–
“Jared, look up!” my friend hissed.
Crap! Someone had pointed a jib-mounted camera directly at my face during my daydream about Phyo Myat Aung, which the viewers at home would mistake for boredom and apathy. They would never vote for him now, and it would be all my fault!
I couldn’t let my section down again. For the rest of the show, I never let my outward enthusiasm flag, even though it meant staying dutifully in my seat when all of my friends stepped out to the restroom during the final commercial break.
As it happened, those dummies stayed outside for too long and were barred from re-entering the stands, which left me the only white person in the entire house, alone in a row of empty seats just as Ko Seacrest led the finalists onto the stage for the judges’ verdict.
Their monologues went on for a while, but I never dropped my expression of utter suspense (even though for all I knew they were merely reminding the viewers to choose Shine brand detergent for the brightest whites and toughest stains).
Of course, Phyo Myat Aung was victorious, and our section was a roiling sea of joy as Ko Seacrest reminded everyone to tune in next week as he squared off against the other finalist, whose name I don’t know but I will call Ma Idina Menzel.
I found my friends in the wings, and we giddily took pictures under a glowing “Myanmar Idol” logo and purchased matching souvenir tee-shirts, which we wore the following week for the Grand Final watch party.
I was not in the auditorium during the final, but I imagine Phyo Myat Aung alone on stage, croaking out a few lame notes as he scans the remorseless judges and a restless house. All seems lost until, somewhere in the mezzanine, his eyes fall on Shwe Mandalar. He came after all! A quick nod from his old mentor, and Phyo Myat Aung lights up the stage like a Roman candle. He is Myanmar Elvis, Sinatra of the East, and his voice flows over the audience like Thingyan rain after the longest of summers. General Ne Win himself, that notorious foe of song and mirth, might have stayed his thugs had only Phyo Myat Aung been at the mic that fateful New Year’s Eve of 1975.
Anyway, that’s how I like to imagine it. And since at the time of writing this is literally the only English language article reporting the outcome of Myanmar Idol season 3, you’ll probably just have to take my word for it.