Check out the counter-culture scene in Rangoon, Burma

From punk rock to modern art, Burma’s capital has enjoyed a creative boom since military rule was scaled down. Even the former spy chief now runs a gallery …

Side Effect, one of Burma’s better known punk rock bands, practise in a dilapidated apartment block on a quiet Rangoon street. It’s a far cry from Austin, Texas, where last March the band performed at South by Southwest, one of the world’s premier music festivals. Back home, preparing for a gig outside a shopping mall, Darko C, Side Effect’s frontman and founder, was full of optimism. “Good things are happening to us,” he said. Under the junta, dissident artists, comedians and musicians were jailed. Today, his band is just one of a number of punk groups winning fans as the country’s creative scene flourishes.

Since power was handed to a semi-civilian government in 2011, reforms have been introduced to Burma slowly. The rules are unclear – Side Effect has had two songs banned, “for lame reasons” – but the relaxation of censorship has helped make arts and culture more accessible to tourists. Rangoon, the biggest city and former capital, is Burma’s cultural epicentre, though visitors can also catch anti-junta comedy in Mandalay or a punk show in Shan state.

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