Side Effect Indie Band: Moving Forwards with Confidence

Photo - Phyo Thiha

A local music band who have been rocking out for the last thirteen years introduced its second album and performed to their fans in the garden of Institute Francais de Birmanie at 8 pm on January 12th last. The performance grounds were almost packed out with over one thousand young to middle-aged music lovers including both local and foreign fans. Kicking off with an inspiring and exciting first song, some audience members were already flowing and dancing to the melody. It was all for the indie pride of Myanmar, Side Effect.

The band was formed with three young men who were studying at Yangon University of Foreign Languages (YUFL) in 2004.


However long ago this was, the original lineup is still performing together today along with a fourth member. Namely, Side Effect is made up of vocalist and musician Darko, drummer Tser Htoo, guitarist Nay Soe Myat and bass guitarist Hein Lwin.

“I saw my peers establishing music bands around 2002 and 2003. With that, I wanted to play the songs I composed with my own band. That’s why I started it,” frontman Darko explained to My Magical Myanmar.

He added that he admired the world-famous grunge band Nirvana and was inspired to create a music band himself.

Nirvana became a major influence – not only for their music but also for their simplicity – they did not show off or make their sounds by plugging into complicated machines. Their primary desire was to compose their own songs and play comfortably. Myanmar’s Christian communities tend to view music as a good deed and mind-controller, and therefore they study and practice music from childhood. Nevertheless, Darko expressed his feeling that most families in Myanmar society cling to old customs and believe that music is time-wasting and misleading. These are major difficulties and challenges facing music artists in Myanmar today. What’s more, music show organizers tend only to consider the most prominent singers instead of debuting new ones. Accordingly, they usually can’t find a platform for their music even if they wish to perform.

As Darko said, “We have no potential for development. This is not a challenge experienced by only us individually, but by many other bands.”

As a Director, Darko along with Tser Htoo and Nay Soe Myat as music instructors and Hein Lwin as a logistics assistant have been working at Turning Tables Myanmar for the last three years. Turning Tables travels all over Myanmar and teaches youths music through their project called ‘Voice of the Youth,’ which further connects them with young people across the country and across the globe.

As they spend more time teaching the talented youths about how to bring out freedom of expression and how to build peace through music, they noticed fewer activities regarding the band’s own music. They earn their living by working at Turning Tables Myanmar, but they use the money they gain there on expenses for the band as they have done from the beginning.

On choosing the path which their music style would go down, Darko said, “We’ve made our choice. We had to decide whether we would do what we like musically or what would please the audiences the most. We believe if we chose honestly it would have influence over them.”
They were invited in 2011 to travel to Bali, Indonesia for their first performance abroad at Asian Music Festival and then in Germany in 2013, and also later in France and Denmark.

Among the performances overseas, it was Stuttgart, Germany on July 24th 2013 when Side Effect absorbed their strongest encouragement in a 25,000-seat football stadium when they performed nine songs plus a requested one. While they sang their most famous song named The Change, the audience sang the chorus along with them. The band members remember feeling overjoyed beyond measure.

Darko confided, “I got goose bumps when I heard my own song echoed by the audience.”

Those who support Side Effect tend to be a wide variety of music lovers from sixteen-year-old teenagers to the middle-aged. However, the encouragement they receive is different between here at home and aboard.

Darko exlpained that there are bars on every street in Berlin, Germany and also music bands always playing here and there. Thus, the local people are very interested in unknown bands and new talent. But here in Myanmar, most people tend to go the performance only if the vocalists and the band are very well-known.

“I prefer performing live shows more than making albums. At a live concert, we can deal with the audience directly. We can speak what we wish to them directly,” Darko said.

Side Effect intends to perform at least six shows per year domestically and internationally in their future plan. All the while they will strive to perform more around the country, and also make music videos for tracks on their albums. Darko encourages and advises enthusiasts who want to establish a new music band,

“Trust yourself. Don’t lose to others. Be persistent to reach your goal.”

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Aung Phay Kyi Soe is a Journalist who worked as Culture, Tourism, Environment and Health Reporter for five years at The Messenger, The Trade Times,DEMOCRACY Today, The Voice and Mawkun In-Depth and Investigative Magazine. He won the Best Feature Award for Climate Change Reporting supported by UN-Habitat and organized by Myanmar Journalism Institute.


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