The Burmese Musician U Ko Ko(128 k.)

The Burmese Musician U Ko Ko

In the Spring of 1993 the eminent Burmese musician, U Ko Ko was given permission by the Burmese government to accept the invitation for a concert tour of the US and Canada under the auspices of the Asian Council. The material used here was recorded via MIDI, during that visit. For more information on the process of transcription see the Note to the Recording process and Transcriptions. U Ko Ko is perhaps one of the most well known and revered musicians in Burma today. He is so well-known and highly respected that in Myanmar he has been able to remain free from any hinderance whatsoever during the various fluctuactions of goverment control there. Born in 1928, he quickly embarked on a career in music, starting out as something of a child star. He soon developed a large following for his interpretations of the classical repertoire as well as for his performances of Burmese popular music. Soon he was known throughout Burma as Gita Lulin Maung Ko Ko, "the Young Man of Music, Maung Ko Ko".

He has had a career as a singer, Burmese xylophone or patala player, and as a pianist interpreting in each case, the classical Burmese music. At the same time he also worked as a pianist accompanying silent films, a medium which lasted rather longer in Burma than in other countries. Soon he was also known for his own modern compositions and before long came to be the main composer for the Burmese film industry and even at times, a director for films. U Ko Ko is a singer and a player of the Burmese xylophone, patala. He is also a well-known performer on the Western piano. The piano was taken into Burmese music and already well established there by the 1920s being used as a solo instrument or as accompaniment to the voice for both modern popular music as well as the classical Burmese repertoire. U Ko Ko has a solid mastery of the classical repertoire, the Maha Gita, as well as being well known as one of the most outstanding exponents of the new song forms. He continues to perform and compose for films in Burma.

A new CD containing excellent live performances by U Ko Ko was recorded in Montreal and has been released under the University of Montreal's UM MUS Label (UM MUS 203 Piano Birman/Burmese Piano). These are live studio recordings and entirely separate from the computer recorded performances which serve as the basis of this article.

Robert Garfias (

last updated 5 November 1995