Myanmar Saing Waing (Drum Ensemble)
Myanmar Saing or Drum Ensemble is very much popular among people. They want to see it often at pagoda festivals and at special occasions like donation ceremony or others.
That time people usually hire a good saing waing to entertain people or guests after a day's work of donation or at the inception of novitiation or ordination ceremonies. But, it is not compulsory to do it, but some affordable persons or donors prefer to hold it.
As soon as the saing master displays his virtuosity, people gather around his saing waing, and listen raptly to his improvisation.
People feel awestruck by his dexterity in handling 21 drums which are arranged in circle.
Looking back into the history, people can learn that Myanmar Kings showed interest in this music. It can be seen very clearly in the Glass Palace Chronicles in this way:
"In the year of 906, King Shwe Hti reached the town called Salin when he marched with his troops by land and by water, and camped at the jetty of it. Then, he heard the music issuing from the platform of the Shwe Tan Zar pagoda. His commanders told him that it was the songs of Pat Saing which was also the name of Saing Waing. Accordingly, he ordered them that the lives of the saing players spared."1
As well, it cannot seperate Myanmar people from Myanmar saing waing because it stays with them for a long time in terms of seriousness and happiness.
It is needed to mention one of the famous saing master Sein Beda who was well-known for his own techniques of playing drums. His father was also a famous Myanmar saing master who served under Myanmar king.
There were some occasions in which Sein Beda performed his saing skills to the delight of King Thibaw, the last king of Koungbaung Dynasty. The first one was that when the king ascended a new residence at Ratanagiri and the other was that at the ear-boring ceremony of the royal princess.
Because of his excellent calibre, the king Thibaw bestowed him the title of "Ne Myo Bala Kyaw Thu" and the right of display four gold-leafed staffs of honour on his drum circle."
Later in one occasion, the saing attendant-cum-singer summoned his master to play the saing in this way:
"Titled Ne-Myo-Bala-Kyaw-Thu by royal pleasure, thy musical genius, without exaggeration, is saluted by musicians throughout the land. Oh brother, music university personified, I, Sein Nyo Seint propose that you tap your drums with the dark sandal tips of your fingers." 2
Such words are really elated and exhilarating when someone hears it. At the time, a music lover understands and feels excited that it is the time for saing master to show his virtuosity.
Later, the small drums in the circle will tell how skillful the master is. At every touch, it sounds like the most brilliant and clearest piece of tune jumping out of it to the enjoyment of the audience.
Some songs tried to jerk the people's delight. It goes this way:
"Behold, the person of Sein Beda, those who say he is dark skinned have their tongues in their cheeks. When he was born, the midwife got only a quarter kyat for her pains. In retaliation she immersed the infant in soot. Behold the result!"3
Those words bring the hall down. But, the master never reduces his gusto, with unflinch composure he played continuously.
His Mingala Byaw Nyunt is still popular for alms-giving occasions. In this time, he sang it himself. The texts of the Byaw really encroaching. It runs thus:
Pandal in mid-town, communal alms-giving,
Old, old monastery with balustrade in ruins;
Since our novice lives there, abundant rains!
As I walk east and gaze west over my shoulder,
I see the Pagoda with its gold banner and streamers;
That's where my darling is, the reverend novice.
How lovely is the entrance leading to it_
The Gold Enlightenment Monastery!4
It needs to mention about tuning of the drums, i.e, pat-sa-poh. The drum master has to be really adept at doing it while the session of humour and slapstick were inserted by rear members of the saing. During the time, the saing master has to finish his tuning.
In this practise, Sein Beda was renowned for his judgement of the amount of pat-sa which is boiled rice and wood-ash kneaded with water into a dough.
Later, his pupils adopted the initial word "Sein" before their name, like Sein Hnget Yo, Kyaukpadaung Sein Maung Tint, Sein Mg Ko, Sein Hla Maung, Sein Kyaw Tint, etc.
Anyway, sometimes "saing" is played by itself, but sometimes together with zat, or A-nyeint. No matter what it takes, saing shows its enchantment to the delight of people.
As long as Myanmar lasts, Saing will survive. It is true.
Nowadays we still find the emergence of Saing master like Myanmar Pyi Kaung Sein who have played the album named "The Proclamation And Myanmar "Saing" ". In that album, he has rearranged the famous songs like Asia Great Man Bo Aung San, The Public Father, Sheer Courage, etc. He has made rearrangements for those songs to be fit to play for Saing. One can say this is his new creation, and he has done very well to do that.
Anyway, Myanmar Saing gives strength and pleasure to Myanmar people whose hearts can discern the subtle and profound kind of art, and they feel satisfied with their life with it.■
1. Tekkatho Maung Thu Hlaing, Myanmar Traditional Orchestra Instruments, p 12
2. K, Burmese Culture, p 61
4. Ibid, p 65