Zeyar Thaw, one of Myanmar’s leading hip-hop stars, never dreamed of entering parliament, let alone representing a district in the military-dominated capital of Naypyidaw.The co-founder of Acid, a band that released Myanmar’s first hip-hop album, was imprisoned in 2008, partly for forming Generation Wave, a youth protest group that the military regime said was illegal. Following his release last year, the former aide to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, decided to run in the April 1 by-election.

The National League for Democracy crushed the government-backed Union Solidarity and Development party in the poll, with Suu Kyi and Zeyar Thaw among the NLD members who won 43 of the 45 seats.

Zeyar Thaw’s metamorphosis from rapper and former political prisoner to member of parliament highlights the rapid democratisation in Myanmar where, until recently, politics was the preserve of the military elite. It also underscores the pace and scope of the reforms launched by President Thein Sein since he came to power a year ago.

The young rapper has relocated to Naypyidaw, the capital, in order to take his seat in parliament. However, it became apparent on Sunday that his debut – along with those of 42 other NLD MPs – will be delayed due to Ms Suu Kyi’s objection to the wording of an MPs’ oath of constitutional allegiance.

As something of an “accidental MP”, however, Zeyar Thaw has time to wait. In his teens, the Yangon-educated son of a top medical academic did not contemplate life as an activist, concentrating instead on writing and performing music.

But growing political repression – culminating in the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” uprising and military crackdown – prompted him and some friends to establish Generation Wave and to step up Acid’s pro-democracy messages.

“When we formed [Generation Wave], I thought I would be involved in politics one day, but we had no idea to form a political party,” he recalled.

The denim-clad rapper says Ms Suu Kyi remains a mentor and inspiration, explaining that “getting close to her was a great opportunity”.

“I watched her every moment … how she handled herself, and began thinking more about politics when she asked me to join the NLD,” said Zeyar Thaw. “I wasn’t thinking of the by-election but then they asked me to run.”

While Zeyar Thaw did not have high hopes of victory, he said April 1 convinced him and other activists that things were changing in “the new Myanmar”. Particularly striking was the fact that his seat was previously held by Tin Aung Myint Oo, a hardline conservative and USDP member who vacated it when he was appointed vice-president last year.

Describing the night of the election, Zeyar Thaw said that while he was “surprised” at the result, “the USDP was shocked”.

When parliament is sitting, he will live in a government-provided single room in Naypyidaw, where he estimates he will spend up to two-thirds of his time. He says he will focus on tackling issues such as unemployment and landlessness in his Naypyidaw constituency, which has a distinctive mix of farmers, low-income workers and military and civil service personnel.

“Most of the farms have gone, there’s not enough money for new business [and] people don’t have many choices,” he said.

As for his performing days, he says they are gone for now. “As an artist, you only have to perform and entertain the audience, [but] as a politician, you have to make their dreams and hopes come true. It’s a big task.”