Tun Myint Aung
Inlay, one of the most enchanting beauty spots of Myanmar, is the heart of Southern Shan Region. In fact, the term “Inlay” is the combination of two mono-syllabic words in Myanmar – “In” and “Lay”. The former represents “Lake” and the latter “Small”, thus meaning “Small Lake”. However, it covers about 45 square miles (116 square kilometers). It is actually the country’s biggest inland lake second to Indawgyi Lake situated in Monyin Township in Kachin State. Geographically, Inlay Lake is situated amidst high mountains on the Shan Plateau about 3000 feet above the sea level. It is said that one will not see the heart of Shan Sate, if one does not visit Inlay Lake with its great significance of its famous leg-rowers or Inthas. There is an excellent opportunity to breathe in the romance of the past of the typical Inthas. Enjoying the breathtaking view of nature at its best and lovely weather, one may feel it will be worth putting one’s heart into their ancient traditional songs – Taik-tays or Duets.
In the past, there was the custom of reciting songs in pair in the region of Inlay. The Taik-tays or duets in the form of singing matches are, in fact, beautiful country songs springing out from the tender heart of the farm-breds or the Inthas (farmers, fishermen, workers and the poor). The singers, lads or lasses, directly or indirectly revealed their personal feelings and sentiments – love, likes, marriage, social and romantic life, etc – in the form of duets.
In a duet, the boys or Inthas (lads) and the girls or Inthus (lasses) usually started to sing a song face to face. One of the youths had to lead the match and the helpers or prompters accompanying him were to always prompt or chorus the song while a lot of youths were listening to the songs in a crowd of firm onlookers around the singers. For instance, a duet was opened by the Intha (lad) as:
“….Let’s start our duets,
Rolling out fine mats
In the middle of the village
Come on (My Girl), with
Yes, come down in person on the lawn
For our match to continue up at dawn….”
This seems to signal the green light of the lad’s challenge against the maids. Sometimes, the irritation of the opening song sung by the lads could be as follows:
“Let’s start our duet
At the prow of the boats being bad
Owned by Father-in-law to go mad
Up to be broken in order that
Yes (My Girl), we all can be glad!”
This is one of the styles of opening duets ironically sung by a lad in a jeering tone for a derisive manner.
Then, the maids, in a witty response, used to reply that his voice seemed muffled as a discordant note produced by a little chicken.
“What a low faint voice!
Little Chick just like!
Shamefully dare match me, afraid!
Like a great singer of maids!”
Vividly, such duets reflect the rural life, thought, idea, volition, tradition, custom, rite, etc. of the local youths of Inlay Lake. These duets were made during vacation of the local people, especially at night when the full moon was shining brightly such as on the full-moon days of Thidingyut and Tanzaunmon, and often on occasions of religious affairs, especially on the days of alms-offering ceremonies at the altar to the Buddhist monks or on the days of offering provisions and various articles to monks collectively by the local community, and the two groups used to have engagements with songs, side by side on the banks of a creek or one in the boat on water and the other in their houses on the beach, by turns, in a dialectical manner.
In making decision as to the winning group of a duet, the leading fact or main theme raised by the proposers’ group had to be refuted by the rivals in a short time and the defenders must be defeated when they couldn’t deliver any rebuttal of the point to the proposer’s satisfaction. In the case, the failure group tended to be mocked by the onlookers including the prompters and the choral singers of the winning group. However, in studying the heart of such duets and the intention of the match, it can be found that the singing of rhyming words in Myanmar traditional lyrical composition or the strophe and the antistrophe, rather than the decision of the winners or the losers in the dual singing, is to be emphasized. This dominant trend of the duets can be examined in the lead and chorus in antiphorical singing of the lad and the lass in turns as:
ေမာင္ : မယ္တို႔မ်ဳိး လွည့္ဆိုးမယံုသာ။
ပန္းေရႊ၀ါ ခုႏွစ္ဖူး ခူးၾကည့္လို႔ကြာ။
Lad : How naughty! Women!
No trust on them.
Trying seven buds of golden flowers
To be plucked with strong desire.
Just it’s a butterfly
That wanna start to try
To get to the lass once
(O’ My Girl) To have a glance,
I couldn’t help but fly
Yes, you may make me shy.
မယ္ : ခ်စ္ပါ့မယ္တဲ့ ၾကင္ပါ့မယ္။
ခ်စ္ပါ့မယ္ တကယ္မို႔ ။
မယ္က(လည္း) တျခားမွာ သစၥာကင္းေအာင္
Lass : To make it for sure
Kindness and love affair;
No girls on your side,
True love on my side
Yes, did I so
Other oaths saying ‘No’
ေမာင္ : မရြာပဲ မမည္းလာနဲ႔ ေရႊမိုးညိဳ။
Lad : ‘Dark clouds no rain’, true it’s still
They darken in the sky above U-daung Hill
They pretend to rain here
But the rain falls there
Like the faint of a girl;
မယ္ : ေရႊအင္းတိမ္သာတဲ့ ေခ်ာင္းမွာလ
Lass : The Shwe-in-tain Creek flows pleasantly,
Whose water may not dry up quickly;
The rain clouds are coming there
I don’t think it may rain here
Love is like a spindle of hair
(O’ my Boy) no hatred in making a good pair
ေမာင္ : အင္းလယ္မွာ ေရႊၾကာပန္း
Lad : In the middle of the lake are golden lotus twins
Yet, there’re still for none just to win;
I wanna send my hand to pluck them
But (O’ My Girl), I can’t manage to touch them.
မယ္ : ပန္ပါတဲ့ပန္ပါ။
Lass : Wear the lotus flowers;
We’re local villagers;
In the eastern breeze of chill
From the top of the hill
Come here, golden butterfly,
(O’ My Boy)To me you’d fly;
The flowers are now grown
Being hidden to be your own…
These pastoral duets are embedded with their lofty sentiments, ever-fresh aesthetic feelings, traditional notion, cultural symbol, etc. We the Myanmars tend to feel enchanted, rejoiced and satisfied with these duets having certain aesthetic significance and enjoyment. It is taken for granted that the indigenous ethnic people of Inlay region as part of blood and flesh of Myanmar love these Inlay Taik-tays and set the aesthetic values in their deepest heart for long up to the end of the world.
At the time of transition to the full-fledged democracy like today, it is natural if every walk of life tends to pay attention to what the real changes are, what progress can be seen, what effectiveness can be achieved, for what purposes the new policies should be laid down, etc. According to the new-year resolution of the new government, one of the most important things to be carried out is the national reconciliation. Whatever effort should be put to realize this extent; for instance, to place a higher priority to this, it is of great importance for the government to put emphasis on language, literature and culture of our ethnic races. In fact, it is a fundamental right for them to develop their language, literature, culture they cherish, religion they profess and customs without prejudice to the relation between one national race and another or among national races and to other faiths. This step can be taken as a strategic focus on establishing mutual understanding and trust among the people regardless of races, who play complementary role and help the new government accomplish the principle objectives to the maximum extent.
Tun Myint Aung
Department of English
Relating to Tipitakas
State Pariyatti Sasana