Boshi (Dah Poe) is a talented musician and artist from the Karen tribe (Burma/Myanmar). He connected to Proskuneo through the School of the Arts in Clarkston and now serves surrounding communities through his creative gifts. Click here to read part 1 of this interview!
Part 2: Building a network of Karen musicians and empowering the community [Interview by Proskuneo intern, Sarah Oh]
I noticed that you have a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ7-z9-aIeWZNO-oz9w0-Vw/featured ) and have started a project called “Music Appreciation and Inspiration”. What made you want to start this?
I love music– it’s one of my passions and I want to use it. I started that project because I had a heart for bringing musicians together. I wanted to see musicians of different age groups come together. I wanted to see unity and wished they would bring and express their gifts; so the world recognizes that even though the Karen are a small group of people, we do have gifts. We do have skills. We do have an education. We are worthy to be known. Specifically, with this project, I wanted it to expand young people’s imaginations—so when they see it, it gives hope. When I see somebody use a gift similar to mine, I am more motivated and inspired. This is my vision: unity, love, and lifting up the Karen community of musicians.
Wow, so you are using music to bring unity amongst Karen people all over the world and connect different musicians?
Yes, and you know, I have never met some people before. But through music, I get to know them—I talk with them, greet them, and give thanks for offering their talent and time. That makes me so happy. Planning and arranging this project is not easy because it takes a lot of time and energy. But I hope I will continue this. I think my next step –if I have a chance– is to have a competition with individual musicians! I would like to know their experience, background, and ask why they love music. Pray for me so we can have this opportunity!
Yes, by all means! Each musical piece has a story, so I think that’s a great idea. You mentioned earlier that arranging this is difficult. Would you mind elaborating on it?
“When I started it, I didn’t know what would happen. But I was praying for two months because nobody submitted any music. I encouraged my friends to join many times, saying that this was a chance to show their talent so others could be inspired. Behind the scenes, I was always communicating with people I knew. And near the time of submission, I saw my friends submit—and usually, submissions came in bulk after the first one. It’s interesting—when they see one person do it, they make time to practice and submit. So I had to keep communicating through emails and messenger to ask and answer questions.”
” Another difficulty has been time management, especially because I have work. I need to plan, communicate, edit, and publish. My goal is the project itself and the inspiration it brings, not about getting more subscribers, likes, or views on Youtube. So I try to release videos whenever I am available.”
“I think to do this, I need to be a supporter and come in with my gifts. Some of them are from Burma, where they don’t have much material and supplies. They sometimes borrow their friend’s instruments. So in my heart, I want to support them. I have a little gift to offer, it’s not a big one but it’s what I have to contribute to the people there. I think every single one of them deserves the gift. They live in all different counties and have different motivations –some volunteer—but I am grateful for those who accept my offer so they feel more motivated through this small gift. They will use it for something.”
“Here’s one beautiful story that shows this point. One of the guys was from Thailand, and I sent him a small gift. He was so happy and thankful. Later he bought a ukelele for his son and sent me a picture. That filled my heart. I told him, ‘I cannot give you enough–but thank you and thank you. This is just one little instrument, but one day your son could be a professional.’ I thought it was a powerful conversation. I have been encouraging many of them, saying that one day you can be a teacher, a professional– I believe in you. One day you can explain it to all the people. My heart lies in encouraging them.”
What a story—thank you for sharing that! You never know what difference your little gift could make to the people.
That is true. Some people – I call them teachers because they were musicians before me— helped me when I first came to the United States. At first, I was just doing random things. Nobody taught me how to record or make music notes. I often looked at youtube videos to practice. And one of the people who participated in this project was a guitarist I saw when I was little. Two musicians who didn’t know me as a kid know me now. I told them that I admired them. There were some memorable moments like these.”
“I really am grateful… I humbly salute them and respect the time they give. I also believe they are humble—they want to do this because they love music and want to see unity. I am at a basic level, so I don’t consider myself a famous guitarist. But these people who give their time, don’t see me as small. Even though it’s a one-person project, they respect it and that leaves me speechless. They are very kind people, willing to give.”
So you mentioned unity often within the church, youth, and musicians so far. How do you define it? What are some moments you see it?
“That’s a big question for me. I think we all need unity—especially in my people and community. This is the question Karen struggle and fight with politically, religiously, and educationally– like any other community in society. Unity is very important. The reason why I kept saying it is because in my heart, in my mind, I have seen through some experiences that we are not united. That is why it’s my hope, vision, and prayer. I seek unity. Once unity lives in and among us, we are strong—we can go through difficulties and climb higher. One bamboo is not enough to make a way across the river—we need multiple to build a bridge. I think so many people who are educators are doing this much more than myself. But it’s the same path. Maybe they do it through church, school, education, but I do it through music. They do it by opening events like singing competitions. Recently, I heard of a project called “unmuting the voice of refugees”. That is one way to fight for unity. Unity could happen when you hear someone singing, crying– when you listen to their needs, hopes, and dreams. We have to be fighting for it. Spiritual unity is important as well.”
Yes, it’s something we all should be fighting for because we can’t have a full life without it. Are there any last words you want to share?
“Once again, I thank the wonderful invitation from Proskuneo Ministries. I love Proskuneo, my friends, and my family. I respect and pray for them at all times. They are people who love and serve God, using their different creative abilities and activities. I have been blessed. They are one of the groups who made me who I am today– because I love music. There may have been no other way to find me as a musician, so I am thankful for them this day.”
“I always like to encourage young people, as I have learned from others. I think my prayer is that may we find unity in working together and loving one another. Not just as individuals, but coming together as a community. I pray that we, through the challenges of this day, seek it. I want the next generation to know God first—he should always be #1 and priority—and then study hard in school, learning so one day they can help their people and community as pastors, musicians, nurses, and more.”
“I see that as a Karen, one thing that we are always fighting for is our consistent identity or language. It’s very important for our traditions, and we need to encourage all my people to remember where they come from—the language and the culture. We don’t want to lose it. We have suffered and cried enough— we can not lose our language, because we need to keep sharing our stories and struggles. They are stories worthy to be shared. “