RANGOON — Double Grammy Award winner Jason Mraz will perform in Burma’s former capital this weekend to raise awareness of human trafficking, becoming the first major international artist to take the stage at an open-air concert in the country.
Arranged by End Exploitation and Trafficking (MTV EXIT), a multimedia initiative campaign, in partnership with USAID, AusAID, Walk Free and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, “MTV EXIT Live in Myanmar” will be held at the People’s Square, under the shadow of Shwedagon Pagoda.
In a move to raise awareness of human trafficking in the country, Thai pop band Slot Machine and Burmese pop stars R Zarni and Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein (who are both MTV EXIT ambassadors for Burma), plus other singers, will share the stage with the 35-year-old American pop singer at the free concert on Dec. 16.
Tin Win Hlaing, the program officer for MTV EXIT Myanmar, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the 50,000 free tickets for the concert were quickly snapped up by music fans. He added that the concert will have a positive impact on the campaign’s mission—to fight against modern-day slavery.
“This performance can educate the Burmese people about human trafficking. At the same time, we have an internationally famous musician for the concert so that the information about our show will spread out all over the world. In this way I hope people across the globe will learn about efforts to end human trafficking,” he explained.
Mraz’s international breakthrough came with the 2008 release of the single “I’m Yours” from the album “We Sing. We Dance.” In 2010, he won two Grammy awards for his singles “Make it Mine” and “Lucky.”
In a video posted on the official website of MTV EXIT, Mraz says, “Mingala ba. I’m Jason Mraz and I’m so excited to come to Myanmar for the very first time to perform at MTV EXIT’s free concert to end human trafficking.”
As the first major international music event to come to Burma in decades, the concert has generated so much excitement that long lines formed for the free tickets, which were distributed from Dec. 6 to 9.
“I came here before 2:30 because they started giving out the tickets at three in the afternoon. But there were about 200 people lined up in front of me,” one fan told The Irrawaddy at City Mart Super Market, one of the outlets in Rangoon where fans could pick up tickets.
Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, one of the MTV EXIT ambassadors for Burma, said she was proud to share the stage with an internationally prominent singer. “This is the first time for us in our lives,” she said.
Speaking about his preparation for his Burmese trip, Mraz told the Hollywod Reporter that he would not be bringing new material because all the material has to be pre-screened and approved by the government.
“But I will say, because it’s such a heavy topic—the topic of ending exploitation and human trafficking—we’ve curated a set list that’s togetherness, self-empowerment, peace and love, harmony, working together,” the American publication quoted him as saying.
Despite the excitement about the upcoming concert, most ordinary Burmese are not as familiar with the award-winning singer-songwriter’s songs as they are with the hits of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or Avril Lavigne. Since earlier this month, FM radio stations in the country have been broadcasting his songs to introduce them to the Burmese audience.