1st Edition

Burma, Kipling and Western Music The Riff from Mandalay

By Andrew Selth Copyright 2017
    336 Pages
    by Routledge

    314 Pages
    by Routledge

    For decades, scholars have been trying to answer the question: how was colonial Burma perceived in and by the Western world, and how did people in countries like the United Kingdom and United States form their views? This book explores how Western perceptions of Burma were influenced by the popular music of the day. From the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824-6 until Burma regained its independence in 1948, more than 180 musical works with Burma-related themes were written in English-speaking countries, in addition to the many hymns composed in and about Burma by Christian missionaries. Servicemen posted to Burma added to the lexicon with marches and ditties, and after 1913 most movies about Burma had their own distinctive scores. Taking Rudyard Kipling’s 1890 ballad ‘Mandalay’ as a critical turning point, this book surveys all these works with emphasis on popular songs and show tunes, also looking at classical works, ballet scores, hymns, soldiers’ songs, sea shanties, and film soundtracks. It examines how they influenced Western perceptions of Burma, and in turn reflected those views back to Western audiences. The book sheds new light not only on the West’s historical relationship with Burma, and the colonial music scene, but also Burma’s place in the development of popular music and the rise of the global music industry. In doing so, it makes an original contribution to the fields of musicology and Asian Studies.





    Scope of the Study

    Burma and Names

    Definitions and Conventions

    1. Setting the Scene

    The West and the ‘Orient’

    Burma and the Popular Imagination

    The West and ‘Burma Girls’

    2. Burma and Western Music Before ‘Mandalay’

    Religious Music

    Secular Music

    Stage Shows

    3. Rudyard Kipling and ‘Mandalay’

    On The Road

    The Musical Settings

    4. Burma and Western Music After ‘Mandalay’

    Imitations and Inspirations

    Other Burma-Related Works

    5. Patterns and Particulars

    Subjects and Themes

    Styles, Types and Rhymes

    Race and Religion

    Burma and the Burmese

    Women and Sexism

    6. Burma’s Changing Soundscape

    Early Colonial Entertainments

    Burma’s Developing Music Scene

    Music and the War Years

    7. And The Band Played On

    Burma, Hollywood and Film Music

    Western Music in Burma After 1948

    Aung San Suu Kyi, Kipling and Music

    8. Afterword

    Appendix: Musical Works with Burmese Themes

    The Early Period (1824-1889)

    Kipling’s ‘Mandalay’ and After (1890-1939)

    The War Years and After (1940-1948)


    Newspaper Stories

    Articles and Chapters

    Monographs and Books

    On-line Sources

    Other Sources


    Andrew Selth is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Griffith University and the Australian National University. He has been studying international security issues and Asian affairs for over 40 years, as a diplomat, strategic intelligence analyst and research scholar. He has published six books, including Burma’s Armed Forces: Power Without Glory.