Shwe Shwe Khaing / Khing Zin Shwe

Voice Over the Bridge

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In Myanmar, the country once known as Burma, there's an ancient tradition of songs. The Great Songs, as they're known, were written in praise of the kings and are documented in the Maha Gita. They've never really been heard outside the country, so these seven pieces, sung by Khing Zin Shwe and Shwe Shwe Khaing, offer an illuminating spotlight into the culture and history of one of Asia's most reclusive countries. The singing itself is beautiful, melodious, and often almost magical, like incantations in a secret tongue. What sets this apart are the arrangements. There's a mix of acoustic instruments along with keyboards and programming (notably, everything is Western) to create something that walks the fine line between world music and new age. The result turns out to be delightful, enhancing the songs rather than turning them into insipid mush. On the tracks that employ strings ("Ataing Mathy Blue" and "Thida") there's a lovely, thrilling swoop to it all. More than background music for a quiet night, this is a very involving, charmed disc.

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