Songs are such wonders; they can inspire, uplift, and heal. The talent in bringing the lyrics and melody together to create a masterpiece is truly remarkable.
In Yangon, Myanmar, a young De La Salle Brother named Br. Josaphat Ai Saw Hung Htoo FSC writes songs about La Salle, family, love, etc. in English and Burmese languages. He composed “New Light of La Salle” and “Let Your Light Shine... Lasallians” to name a couple. Let’s get to know more about this budding singer-songwriter Brother and his music.
LEAD Story (LS): What is your earliest memory of singing?
Br. Josaphat (J): Actually, I never had such a dream of singing and composing songs. I was so shy to expose myself singing in front of people because I stammered during my childhood until my university life. This was the biggest problem for me. Also, I don’t have a good voice even if I wanted to sing a lot. That’s why I prefer composing songs than singing.
LS: What musical instruments do you play? When did you learn to play these instruments?
J: I play the piano, keyboard, guitar including bass guitar, harmonica, and flute. I started learning the keyboard when I was in Grade 7. I took the opportunity during my free time to learn other musical instruments in the formation program.
LS: What got you into writing songs?
J: After entering the formation program, I got some ideas or inspirations from different people in terms of composing different songs. It was just a makeup of my feelings in order to come up with some lyrics and tunes. I didn’t learn properly and formally from others how to compose songs.
LS: What musical genre do you compose?
J: Mostly my compositions are country, rock, and pop music. But if there is a requirement, I can try different style of musical genres.
LS: What is your formula in writing songs?
J: Since I am not a professional in writing songs, I go with whatever the situation needs in my ministry and it just all depends on the intentions that I am going to compose. Basically, I start composing a poem and develop it into a song. After that, I put the melody to it but it is the most difficult part because I have to be very careful when putting the melody, which might also be contained in other people’s composition. This part really takes a lot of time!
LS: Where do you get your inspirations for your original compositions?
J: Formation was the place where I started to have curiosity about discovering my gifts including playing musical instruments, composing songs, doing magic tricks, and some other interests. There were many times I wanted to try whether I have the ability to compose songs or not. I came to know that I can compose songs for my ministry as a Brother even though I can’t be a professional composer.
LS: Who is/are your idol musician/s when growing up?
J: Frankly, I can say that I am a copier because I imitated many people who compose songs or play musical instruments. That’s the way I learn and I believe that I can improve myself by doing so. I learn from them by observing the way they compose or play. Among the Brothers, I can still remember I had learned a lot about how to play the organ from Br. Mark Sixtus FSC during my high school.
LS: What do you do to develop your musical talents/skills? How do you wish to further develop your talents/skills?
J: I would like to develop my musical talents more if I were given a chance to pursue it. There are times that I feel little because I cannot develop my talents in some ways due to financial matters and doing my mission as a teaching Brother takes utmost priority. I am trying my best by starting slowly, and I hope that I will be able to use my musical talents in my mission in a more a fruitful way.
LS: What is the most joyful aspect of being singer-songwriter? In addition, what is the most challenging part?
J: Whatever songs I compose, I would like to make use of them. That’s why I am happy and this is my dream in the future that I would like to make sure that my songs are recorded well and sung by the professional vocalists. By doing so, people can use them properly and benefit from it. I want to give them my simple contribution for their spiritual life. As I mentioned, it is very challenging to record a good song when you have nothing.
LS: How does this talent/skill strengthen your vocation as a De La Salle Brother?
J: I use this musical talent in my mission. I am happy and alive in my vocation because it is one of my beliefs that interests and hobbies can strengthen me to go on as a De La Salle Brother.
LS: As a singer-songwriter De La Salle Brother, what can we expect from you in the future?
J: I would like to have support from the Brothers or Lasallians who are interested in writing songs or who are really good in music. I want to have more ideas from them and work together to come up with new songs as a contribution to LEAD. I plan to compose many songs to use in my ministry, especially in Myanmar. And I would like also to make La Salle well-known and alive because I realize that this is one of the most effective ways of promoting Lasallian Vocations in Myanmar.
LS: What is your message to Lasallians and aspiring composers?
J: There are many talented young Brothers and Lasallians who can really commit themselves to LEAD. They are somehow good in different aspects and we have to take the opportunity to make use of their talents, especially musical talents. We have to encourage them to use this kind of talent in the mission in order to animate the young people to be active and mobile.
Visit Br. Josaphat’s YouTube Channel to view his original compositions.