Yan Soe Was a Famous DJ in Myanmar. As a Political Refugee in Denver, He Drives DoorDash

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Yan Soe’s frustration and ambition butt heads in his small apartment 7,963 miles from residence. The 35-year-old Myanmar native is an internationally recognized composer and DJ, but sitting in his Denver residence studio, he’s a political refugee hiding from his residence country’s armed forces.

Soe wears a plain black shirt, and his black hair is slicked again with gel, necessary to hold it in place whereas he’s in constant motion. Even at relaxation, Soe drums his legs and strikes his arms up and down as he talks, as if he’s constantly weighing his options. He scans two large displays and performs footage from a Myanmar festival efficiency he headlined in 2019.

In the video, intricate fireworks displays coordinate with the sounds from the full orchestra enjoying Soe’s remixed compositions. Thousands of fans document him with their phones while screaming “Double U,” his DJ title that seems on the enormous display screen behind the stage.

He clicks on photos of his eighth-story penthouse suite, where his west-facing studio overlooked the airport in Myanmar’s largest metropolis, Yangon. “I might see the sunset and the planes taking off,” Soe displays. “It was so stunning.” He plays soundtracks of movie scores he composed and original compositions for Coke, Nestlé and Samsung commercials.

“As you’ll have the ability to see,” he says, “my life was higher in my country.”

click on to enlarge

Yan DJing an outdoor pageant in Myanmar.

Dream Capture Media House

But on February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military ousted the elected authorities throughout early-morning raids. The streets flooded with anti-coup protesters, standing face-to-face with armored automobiles and machine weapons. Martial regulation was ordered, and the navy imposed curfews, minimize food and water supplies, and managed commerce and knowledge. Soe was used to such control from previous navy dictatorships during his childhood: “We didn’t know about hamburgers till the 12 months 2000.”

He was lively within the civil disobedience movement and supported the democratically elected and currently imprisoned president, Aung San Suu Kyi. He campaigned towards the coup, talking out in interviews and discuss reveals, and organized mass protests through his social media. He became a goal.

On April 8, 2021, Soe saw unusual messages on Facebook from his associates. “So many notifications,” he remembers. “Run, hide! Your photograph is on TV,” they said. There was a warrant for his arrest. If he had been caught, jail can be a finest case. Other artists, journalists and political dissenters unable to go away the country usually disappear and are presumed killed, he explains. 

Soe known as his dad. “Hey, Dad, I’m on the TV proper now,” he said. “I should run away.” He hugged his eleven pet bunnies a last time and kissed his American Eskimo dog, Sugar.

“I grabbed my backpack and ran down the emergency stairs,” he recollects. Neighbors hid him for the night time.

Yan along with his family in 2019. His dad and brother-in-law have each since handed away from COVID.

Courtesy Yan Soe

He escaped throughout a river to Thailand, assisted by members of a shadow group who spoke utilizing solely code names. Then Soe called Suu, his friend from Myanmar who’d moved to Denver years earlier. “We’re like brothers,” Soe explains. Suu advised him to come to Denver. 

The United States Embassy in Thailand and the UN Refugee Agency helped Soe get to Denver in December 2021. He arrived with a duffel bag of garments and a backpack containing simply headphones, a Kindle, some USB drives and $300.

Soe remembers how, twenty years earlier, dance music in style in Thailand started flooding into Myanmar. Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees and Bon Jovi tempted his ear. Every Saturday, he’d take any pocket money he had on the hour-long bus journey downtown. “I didn’t spend money on shoes or garments,” he says. “Just CDs and tapes.” 

Under his native name, DJ Wine, he was liable for popularizing EDM in Myanmar, starting with underground dance music within the early 2000s. He co-founded the Myanmar DJ Association, and in 2005, he opened a DJ faculty. Soe has mastered trance and progressive house styles, and over the past two decades, he’s launched one album and greater than 100 singles.

He touches his chest as he describes deejaying as an emotional connection with his viewers. “I at all times wanted to be a studio musician,” Soe says, “but then I began seeing folks dance and cry to my music.” It grew to become an obsession. 

The partitions of his 120-year-old apartment in Denver are bare, minus acoustic foam panels and an 8-by-10-inch print of the Buddha. Small carved figures of his favourite composers — Bach, Beethoven and Mozart — sit above a monitor. “They’re my idols,” Soe says. Wires and cables tangle from a 6-foot hat rack. A pair of fluffy dice hanging from the ceiling are supposed to bring good luck, but they’ve but to bear fruit from the Colorado Lottery, which Soe performs every day. Italian chamber orchestra music vibrates in the background.  

Since his arrival in Denver, Soe has cleaned floors in a Thai restaurant and delivered packages for Amazon. Recently, he’s been driving six days per week for DoorDash. “Time is cash,” he says, wishing he had extra of each to focus on music. 

So far, he is deejayed at Your Mom’s House and the Black Box, but overall, there’s little to indicate for his efforts to get Denver gigs. He’s joined on-line teams to community and has tried to get the attention of promoters. “I’m not famous right here; I’m simply well-known in my nation,” he notes. “That’s a giant wrestle.” During a latest DoorDash pickup at a McDonald’s, Soe met a talkative security guard who also works for the Church nightclub. Yan informed him he’s a DJ, and they exchanged contacts.

He still composes music for a Myanmar production house, and the aspect job earns him between $300 and $500 for each 45-second TV business. He’s additionally releasing new singles regularly on his Spotify.

click on to enlarge

Yan Soe’s home studio in Denver.

David Gordon

Amid the ugly circumstances Soe faces, he feels fortunate to be in Denver. He loves the mountains and snow, a panorama he’s unaccustomed to. He carves out time to read psychology and music composition books on his Kindle, and he loves cooking for his neighbors. “We don’t make small portions,” he explains. Myanmar-style hen coconut curry is his favorite, or scorching pot with octopus and squid. His mom sends homegrown chickpea powder through the mail as a end result of he can’t discover the good stuff here. 

It’s been two years since Soe fled Myanmar, and the civil warfare continues to engulf daily life in his country. Brutal government suppression includes systematic burning of villages, and an estimated 23,000 civilians have been killed. The financial pie is crumbling, and the crumbs left cause a chaotic mass exodus of residents and international funding.

This summer time, Soe expects to get his green card and passport through the African Community Center in Denver. He agonizes over the variety of types he has to fill out. “I want my life again,” he says. 

His rage is palpable — the fist-pounding-into-the-hand sort. His penetrating eyes water as he discusses the army dictatorship, but he focuses on what he can control. While he can’t be on the entrance strains in Myanmar, he raises money for the National Unity Government, soliciting donations on Facebook from his 597,000 followers.

He awaits the military’s fall whereas his mother preaches patience and tells him to concentrate on work. Once his paperwork is processed, he’ll fly to Thailand. His mom will take a 45-minute flight from Myanmar and meet him there. For now, even with a thirteen-and-a-half-hour time distinction, Soe raises his phone off the table, laughs and says, “My mom is all the time calling me.” 

After a protracted shift delivering food, Soe arrives residence and sits in his chair going through his screens, keyboard and Pioneer turntables. Buddha and Bach look on as he cracks a cold one, in all probability a Guinness or an IPA. He toys with the piano keys, on the lookout for the proper melody to match his temper, hoping he doesn’t get a textual content from Bruce, his next-door neighbor, asking him to kindly turn down the amount. Then he grabs his phone and picks five random numbers for the day’s lottery. Right now, the Powerball jackpot is at $284 million, which would be nice, he admits.

But Soe is conscious of that not even that amount of money will give him his life again.

Follow Yan Soe on Instagram @double_u_official and Twitter @doubleumusic.

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