By the afternoon of Feb. 1, 2021, videos of tanks rolling through the streets of Naypyitaw, Myanmar, were aired by news outlets across the world. That morning, the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, deposed the country’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy, in a coup d’état.
Cin Lam Mung, a junior cybersecurity major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, watched the violent siege unfold half a world away, saddened and speechless at the fracturing of the country’s delicate progress toward democracy. His thoughts immediately went to his relatives in Myanmar.
“I was worried about my grandma and the old people in my village,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of jobs, and they just don’t have a lot of security. So, if there’s instability, they’re not going to have any food.”
As the conflict continued, Mung was inspired to use his lifelong passion for music to help the people
of Myanmar. He recorded “Nang a Ding Om Den Ning,” an album of 12 love songs, under the stage name Key Mung and has sold copies to raise money to benefit those affected by the coup. Mung, a member of the Zomi ethnic group, grew up in Yauh Cho Kwin, a small, rural village. The isolated village didn’t even have a telephone, but it had plenty of music.
“Even though our village didn’t have a lot of technology, our church did have some really old microphones, instruments and huge, old loudspeakers,” Mung says. “That made music interesting for me.”
As Christians in the predominantly Buddhist country, Mung’s people often faced religious persecution. In 2008, his father – a church leader targeted by the military – came to the United States as a religious refugee. The rest of the family followed in 2013, resettling in St. Louis.
“When we came here, everything was different,” Mung says. “But the technology was so difficult. I had never used a computer before or a smartphone, and then I was in high school all of the sudden.”
Mung adapted deftly, learning English at the Nahed Chapman New American Academy and earning a place in the cybersecurity program at UMSL. In addition to his humanitarian efforts, he uses the knowledge he’s gained at UMSL to provide IT support for his immigrant and refugee neighbors in St. Louis.
On “Nang a Ding Om Den Ning,” Mung draws upon his love of country, pop and hip-hop music, as well as Zomi singers Lengtong Pauno and Thawn Kham. He took a DIY approach to the album, singing lead vocals on each song, recruiting backing musicians and producing each track.
By promoting it on Zomi National TV, which reaches Zomi refugees in numerous countries, and through his church, Mung sold enough copies to feed 31 families in Yauh Cho Kwin for three months. Each family received bulk packages of rice, noodles and oil. After Mung graduates from UMSL, he intends to continue aiding those in need while pursuing his passion.
“I would like to work in cybersecurity, any company, but a job where I can use technology, keep people safe and help people,” he says. “I would also like to make more music. I am working on my gospel album, and it will be coming very soon.”