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|Birth name||Swe Aye Myint|
13 February 1962 |
|Years active||1976 – present|
May Sweet (Burmese: မေဆွိ; pronounced: [mè sʰwḭ]; born Swe Aye Myint (ဆွေအေးမြင့် [sʰwè ʔé mjɪ̰ɴ]) on 13 February 1962) is a Burmese singer and actress, and considered one of the most commercially successful female singers in the history of Burmese pop music. She is most famous for her Burmese covers of Euro disco and American rock and pop songs as well as classic Burmese songs from the pre- and post-war eras.
May Sweet was the dominant female singer of Burmese pop music from the late 1970s to the 1980s, bridging popular singers from the 1970s like Nwe Yin Win and L Khun Yi to Maykhala, her main rival in the mid-1980s, and to Hayma Ne Win and Connie in the late 1980s. She also collaborated with other male singers, most notably with Kaiser. She achieved immense popularity starting in the late 1970s with a series of repackaged Western cover albums called Panthi Thachinmya (lit. Apple Songs), written by successful cover songwriter Thukhamein Hlaing, and a series of classic Burmese cover albums produced by Maung Kyemon. Her covers, some of which were originally written for male singers, often became more popular than the original covers. She also had many successful "original" songs as she was the top choice of songwriters of the day. Her most famous song, or her signature song, is Maung.
At the peak of her popularity in the early to mid-1980s, the fourth daughter of five-time Myanmar Academy Award winner Myint Myint Khin also starred in a number of films where she appeared with leading men of the day like Pyay Nyein and Kyaw Thu. In the 1990s, she chose to focus on her music career, and stopped making films. Though the Burmese pop music scene had changed from slow rock/pop to Europop, techno, heavy metal and hip-hop, she stayed with her tried-and-true pop ballads. With her strong fan base, she was able to keep releasing new albums. Ironically, the next generation of female singers promptly covered many of her popular songs (both covers and originals) though none achieved her success. The songs remain closely identified with her. The longevity of her popularity and dominance at the top remains unparalleled in Myanmar where even most successful female singers do not last more than a few years. To date, she remains the only singer to have achieved success in both Western-style pop and classic Burmese music genres.
May Sweet left the Burmese music scene and the country in the late 1990s after she was married to a Burmese-American from New York in 1997. She resides with her husband in Delaware. She continues to perform for Burmese expatriate audiences around the world.
Swe Aye Myint was born on 13 February 1962 in Yangon, Myanmar to Myint Myint Khin, a top leading lady of Burmese cinema and a singer, and Khin Maung Nyunt, a lawyer. Swe Aye Myint, nicknamed Mi Swe, was the fourth child of five daughters. Deeply interested in music since childhood, young Mi Swe was able to sing classical Burmese songs called thachingyi by 8. Her singing ability caught the ear of Ba Than, a famous Burmese harp master, and a family friend. Ba Than trained her to play the Burmese harp. Still at age eight, she first made her concert appearance at a Taungoo pagoda festival (Festival of the Twenty Eight Buddhas), singing Nwe Yin Win's famous hit Mimi Lay Ye Maymay Kyaung.
Becoming May Sweet
Soon after her first stage appearance in 1970, Mi Swe was offered a chance to record a duet song with Nwe Yin Win, another family friend, in Nwe Yin Win's upcoming album. Right before the release of the album, Myint Myint Khin chose a stage name for her daughter. The name was May Sweet, the result of Burmese wordplay (called Zagalein) of the name Mi Swe (IPA: [mḭ sʰwè]) to May Sweet ([mè sʰwḭ]). (Zagalein is similar to vesre in Argentine Spanish, or verlan in French, reversing the sounds of a word or words to produce a slang or colloquial name.)
At 14, May Sweet's career began in earnest. She released her first album with Zaw One, one of the leading men of Burmese cinema at that time. Her follow-up album was with her mother, covering many of her mother's hits from the 1950s. Trained in classical Burmese music, May Sweet with the help of noted musician Maung Kyemon turned to old Burmese songs from the pre-war era (1930s) by the great May Shin, and updated them with modern Western music and arrangements. Her covers proved immensely popular, and she became a household name at 17.
At 17, riding her popularity as a singer, May Sweet entered into a film career, getting the lead role in her first film. She made numerous films opposite the top leading men of the day such as Kyaw Thu, Yan Aung, Zin Waing, Pyay Nyein, and Ye Aung. She never achieved anywhere near her mother's popularity or success in films, and stopped making films when she was about 30.
Move to America
In 1997, May Sweet married Andrew Lee (also known as Zaw Win), a Burmese American from New York. They first met during one of her trips to the United States where she was invited to perform at a fundraiser for a Burmese monastery. She left for the US soon after. Now working at a middle school in the US, she continues to perform for Burmese expatriate audiences around the world during her time-off. She and her husband have no children.
Sweet has twice been the subject of a death hoax. First in 2008 when news of her death was linked to a report purportedly distributed by Associated Press. Secondly in 2011 on the exile-run media web site the Irrawaddy that published a number hoax articles when it was hacked. The singer instantly issued a statement online that the news was a hoax.
May Sweet has recorded dozens of albums and hundreds of songs in many genres in her long career. (In early 2010, she released her first new album in over a decade.) The following is a partial list.
- Panthi Thachinmya 7 (1987)
- Natmyinbyan (1982)
- Ethiopia (1983)
- Hnalontha-De-Ga Sai Htee Saing 1 (1985)
- Hnalontha-De-Ga Sai Htee Saing 2 (1985)
- Biscope-Hte-Ga Sweet (1985)
- Aerobic (1990)
- Arlon Kaung Ba Zay (1991)
- Yin-De-Ga Sai Htee Saing (1992)
- Koko Ba Lo Mohn-Da-Le (1992)
- Cartoon Zatlaik (1992)
- Nabanhsan (1993)
- San Francisco (1994)
- Htoo Ein Thin Winyin (1997)
- Sweet Melody of the Heart (2010)
- KKO (April 2005). "Forever a singer, Ma Swe". People Magazine Myanmar (in Burmese). Yangon.
- Aye Thu (2010-03-11). "Interview with May Sweet". 7-Day News Journal (in Burmese). Yangon.
- Violet Cho (2008-03-18). "Bogus News Distresses Burmese Internet Users". The Irrawaddy.
- "Website critical of Myanmar regime hacked". The Boston Globe. 2011-03-11.
- May Sweet. "Hoax News About My Death in Irrawaddy WebSite". facebook.com. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
- "သူခိုးေတြအတြက္ ေရးတဲ့စာ". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
- "May Sweet Discography" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2010-04-01.
- May Sweet discography (Japanese)