U Win Hlaing, nat-kadaw 'No. 1' // Witnessed scenes in Yangon, Taungbyone village and... Paris!
In Burma, many people believe in ghost spirits called Nat. They are said to possess the power to assist or devastate the lives of those who recognize them. A Pwe is a ceremony held to appease a Nat.
Pwe are arranged daily throughout Burma for many purposes including the achievement of success in business, a happy marriage, or improving one's health. A Nat is summoned through a Kadaw; the flamboyant and charismatic master of the Pwe dressed in elegant costume. The Kadaw is a spirit medium, dancer, storyteller, and magician who exposes the crowd to a living incarnation of the Nat brought forth through opening ritual and careful observance of tradition.
Many of the Kadaw are male crossdressers performing the role of female Nat. Audience participants are often ecstatic, spontaneously launching into trance as the Nat spirit possesses their bodies while the melodically ornamental and thundering sound of the Nat Pwe orchestra plays on as perhaps the last, great unknown musical juggernaut existing anywhere.
Since the 11th century, there have been 37 officially recognized Nats and every August, in the village of Taungbyone, there is a festival dedicated to two of them. At the peak of the Taungbyone celebration, there is the magnetic, unexplainable concoction of conservative tradition, free expression, music, dance, spirit possession, and anomolous synchronicities of Burma's carnival of spirit soul.
Fr. // Les 37 Nat, anciennes divinités hindoues, esprits errants et tourmentés des princes et princesses de l’ancienne Birmanie, appartiennent à un autre monde qui daigne se révéler à travers les Nat (du mot sanskrit naqha, "maître", "seigneur"). Le monde des Nat porte en lui une souffrance que la violence de la transe semble expulser. Extrêmement codifié, le rituel soutenu par un chant très expressif fascine par l’incroyable richesse des costumes des danseurs-médiums, par les notes cristallines des gongs du saing-waing.