Win Pe

The artist Win Pe born in 1936 in Mandalay and raised in a family passionate about the arts, young Win Pe was introduced to music and drawing by his father before he entered primary school. His father, Shwepyi U Ba Tin, a famous scholar on Myanmar art, history and culture, made sure that his five children were familiar with Maha Gita, Myanmar’s traditional classical music. When he wasn’t  singing songs or playing on a traditional xylophone, little Win Pe made his father proud by drawing anything that came to his mind on a slate.


For all his devotion to traditional classical music, however, he was attracted to Western music, especially jazz and blues, from the age of around 10 years old in the years immediately after World War II. He was mesmerized by the music of Louis Armstrong, Harry James, Ella Fitzgerald and others to whom he was exposed through American musical films. At home, he secretly tuned to Radio Ceylon from Sri Lanka for European classical music, lest his anti-colonial nationalist father should become aware of his new passion. Apart from playing traditional xylophone at home, he learned to play trumpet and saxophone without his father’s knowledge.