Merry Christmas from Burma / Iowa / by Cyrus Moussavi

Burma and the Burmese diaspora is really active on Facebook, and this Christmas carol from our trip across the eastern part of the country a couple years ago is suddenly getting a lot of love. 

This clip was shot as part of a motorcycle trip through the very Christian (Catholic and Baptist) mountain regions of Kayin (formerly Karen) State and southern Shan state. We were on a search for music traditional and otherwise in a region rarely visited by foreigners. We found both, and a lot of Christmas spirit.  

When I returned to Iowa mid-winter, a chance encounter in a pizza joint led me to a community of Karen and Karenni refugees and migrants from these very same villages, living in Waterloo and working in meat packing.  They helped me translate some of these videos, and invited me to church services, lunches, and New Year's celebrations. I recognized some of the Christmas songs, first heard in the lush Burmese highlands, displaced and rearticulated in the dead bleak Iowa winter weeks later. Radically different contexts, but a common sense of longing and refuge in the church.

Here is a short film, one of my favorites, that resulted from this collaboration with the Iowa Burmese refugee community. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to our friends in Kayin State, Iowa State, and all places between and beyond!