As a edgling diplomat posted to the Australian embassy in Rangoon in the 1970s, I always felt uncomfortable when, at a party or dinner, some of my colleagues or their partners would break into a chorus of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Mandalay’. My embarrassment was more acute if there were Burmese guests present, as it seemed to me in rather bad taste to be reciting (or, if the evening had been a convivial one, singing) a ballad that the locals could nd patronising, if not offensive. Reecting on this many years later, it struck me as remarkable that Kipling’s poem and its musical settings had made such an impact on the Western imagination that even now they are not only considered entertaining but, more to the point, are still seen as evocative of Burma. It has been more than 125 years since the ballad rst appeared, but new versions of the song are being recorded. Also, despite all the changes that have taken place since, both in Burma and elsewhere, it is still being cited in connection with a wide range of artistic works.1