Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Mraz helped pen a new page in Burma’s history books when he headlined the free outdoor concert, becoming the first international artist ever to perform in a country which suffered under five decades of military rule until a new government came to power in March 2011.
The atmospheric live concert, held at People’s Square in the shadow of the city’s magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, was part of an event hosted by the music television channel MTV under its campaign, MTV EXIT, an acronym for “End Exploitation and Trafficking.”
The 70.3-acre square was packed with an enthusiastic audience visibly stirred by the hot line-up of talent on Sunday night. Fans waved light sticks and rocked to the beat from before the concert started until well after it finished.
An estimated audience of 70,000 witnessed this historic live performance, which will be broadcast on national television and across MTV’s international network in early 2013.
One of the night’s highlights was when Jason Mraz sang his commercially successful hit, “Lucky,” as a duo with Burmese pop sensation and MTV EXIT Celebrity Ambassador Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein.
Other top artists included Thailand’s Slot Machine, and Burmese singers R Zarni, Sai Sai, Chan Chan, Chit Htu Wai, Linn Linn and Pyo Gyi.
Jason Mraz closed out the event with his hit “I’m yours” and saluted those who work in the fight against human trafficking.
In addition to the music at the event, speakers from NGOs and government departments addressed measures to curb human trafficking, exploitation and slavery.
“Once you know something like that [human trafficking], you can't really get it out of your mind," said Mraz in pre-concert advertising.
“Burma’s a country that's just coming back into communication with the Western world, and we want to be there on the front lines to educate, empower and engage the youth,” he said.
The United Nations estimates that more than 20 million people currently live in slavery around the world, with Burma and Southeast Asia particularly affected.
Burma’s men, women and children are reported as being vulnerable to human trafficking, often with official support. Burmese are routinely trafficked to countries such as China, Bangladesh, Malaysia and South Korea for forced labor and prostitution.
Internal trafficking is also known to exist in Burma where men and boys are subjected to forced labor in industrial and agricultural sites while women and girls are trafficked to fishing villages, border towns, mining areas and military camps for sexual exploitation.
Progress in Burma, officially known as Myanmar, was commended by the US State Department in its 2012 human trafficking report with reforms by President Thein Sein's government cited as a reason.
Chinma, a local Burmese who has worked almost five years for World Vision, an NGO dedicated to protecting street children and working children, said, “This kind of concert can raise people’s awareness of human trafficking. The government is making progress, and is raising more awareness of the human trafficking issue, and by laying down and implementing the laws.”
Yoshi, a Japanese man working for the IOM (International Organization for Migration) NGO said the concert was “a good chance for the country” to improve its human trafficking situation.
Jay Beebe from the US embassy in Burma, said that everybody at the embassy was excited about the concert.
“The country is opening up,” he said. “Foreign businesses come here to give local people jobs. As far as I know, MTV is having a good time here without any problems. It’s a great event and everybody appreciates it.”
Mg Thar Nge, a 19-year-old DJ from City FM Radio, said “All the people know about Jason Mraz and many have come to see him. But after the concert, many people will go home and tell their families what they have learned about human trafficking.”