In Myanmar, zat means story and pwe means show, so finally zat-pwe
means Myanmar musical play. It can be understood as the opera or ballet
of the western countries.
The characters included in the Zat-pwe are mintha, male lead; minthami,
Ngo-gyin means wailing song, nha-par-thwar means duet dance and song,
lun-khan means tragic scene.
All about the Zat-pwe
There is no nation on the face of the earth so fond of fun and
laughter and theatrical entertainment as the Myanmar. Without the
benefit of Saing (Myanmar Orchestra) is a popular Myanmar idiom to
describe any dull, uninteresting event or something unceremonious or
unheralded. A person arriving without any previous notice is often
remarked upon as arriving without the benefit of Saing.
The art of Myanmar Zat-pwe is one of the subtlest and most elusive of
arts and trying to explain it is like capturing a moon beam to analyze
its power over lovers and poets.
Zat-pwe is deeply rooted in the traditions of the country and has many
conventions which are not easily understood by a casual spectator.
Myanmar's monarchical pass has given the Zat-pwe the glorious music and
songs as well as court dramas of great poetic beauty. Most of the Zats
(stories or plots) are drawn from Buddhist scriptures and from there,
the Zat artistes draw their inspiration and help to interpret to the
laymen the Buddhist thought the way of life.
Since the elements of the opera, ballet and musical are woven into the
zat-pwe, the whole thing is a wonderful piece created by the teamwork of
artistes; but the artistes themselves are fiercely individualistic, each
expressing himself or herself with such freedom that it makes you marvel
at the spontaneous coordination that is finally achieved.
Today, zat-pwe is still misinterpreted and much injustice is being done
to it in futile attempts to evict decadent influences that are as
natural as weeds in a flower garden. One cannot be too careful not to
injure the blooms in pruning away the undesirable under-growths.
Nha-par-thwar scene in the old days used to be a duet, dancing and
singing, with one mintha and one minthami. Later, probably to meet the
demands of the audience, the artistes introduced new attractions, hence
one mintha with many minthamis in the scene.
The dancing and singing of each minthami in nha-par-thwar scene
symbolize different facets of feminine charm and the mintha responds
with varying moods to match each act. One of the arts of'a mintha is
part of nha-par-thwar, not only has he to do the duet dance and sing, he
must also have subtle artistry in reciprocating the infinite variety of
The nha-par-thwar scene in the hands of a consummate artist blossoms
forth as a thing of beauty, but when a lesser performer enacts it, it
becomes nothing but a vulgar sham, a Cassanova shamelessly flaunting his
amours and bringing out the worst side of man's baser instincts.
Suffice it to say for the present that the art of ngo-gyin, like that of
nha-par-thwar, needs a really accomplished artist to bring out its
Zat-pwe is thoroughly Myanmar, very much in keeping with the national
character, and I hope I shall ever be Myanmar enough to enjoy its
beauties that custom cannot stale. I hope I shall never be such a dull
piece of goods, that the stirring music of nat-chin, the music of the
nat-ka-daw dance which usually opens a zat-pwe fails to make my heart
beat to its tune. I pray that I may never have a soul so dead that the
dance of the belus, zawgyis, and nagas fails to fill me with a sences of
wonder and insight into human aspirations symbolized by these mythical
The people of the Zat-pwe
U Shwe Mann Tin Maung was a well-known performer of the Zat-pwe. He
was awarded with the "A Lin Gar Kyaw Swa" award for being the best and
the most talented performer for the theatre arts. He was the first and
the only one to ever get this honorary award. He established the "Thitsar
Myitar Shwe Mann Thabin". He taught his skills, knowledge and talents to
his five sons who inherited his troupe after his death. His sons were
Nyunt Win, Win Bo, Win Maung, San Win and Chan Thar. Among the
five sons, only Chan Thar became to take his father's place as a great
performer. He has his shows all over the country. The third generation
of Shwe Mann is "Tin Maung San Min Win", the son of San Win. Now, he and
his uncle "Chan Thar" together make marvellous shows in Myanmar and in
other countries. The young artist started his courier at the age of 15.
He is not only talented at such a young age, he is the third generation
artist carrying on the Shwe Mann legacy. Tin Maung San Min Win has won
the National Cultural Dance competition in Myanmar, after receiving top
awards in every division he participated in.
Some other troupes are Moe Win & Moe Min group, Nan
Win group, Pho Chit group and some more. Although there are more troupes
of the Zat-pwe performance, Shwe Mann Tin Maung Troupe is the most
popular group among them.