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Me N Ma Girls just want to make music
Publication Date : 11-07-2012
Some of their countrymen call them plain ugly. Others say they are completely unrecognisable, forgettable even, when they are apart from the group.
Despite such disparaging comments, the five-member girl band from Myanmar, Me N Ma Girls, are completely unfazed.
In fluent English, Ah Moon, 24, easily the spunkiest and most gregarious member of the group, says: "People in Myanmar have told us that our music is quite good, but that we're not pretty enough to be in a girl band.
"Their idea of a girl group is more like the K-pop groups - you know, girls who are fair-skinned and look perfect.
"But we don't care. K-pop girls all look the same and we're not interested in that. All five of us look very different and we have different personalities, so we're not going to change anything."
Plastic surgery has 'never' crossed their minds, they say.
Ah Moon adds fiercely: "We just want to make music and do what we love and get on stage and sing and dance. Hopefully, we'll win over our audience with the music."
The quintet were in town over the weekend to perform at the RHB Singapore Cup 2012 football tournament when Myanmar played the Philippines in a quarter-final match.
Ah Moon is joined in the group by Htike Htike, Wai Hnin, Kimmy and Cha Cha, aged between 21 and 24.
They are all graduates from colleges in Myanmar, in subjects such as Russian, computer science and chemistry. None is interested in using her degree, however.
Their parents - whose occupations range from street food sellers to a church minister - are 'very supportive' of their music career after harbouring initial misgivings about it.
Wai Hnin says: "Our parents just want us to be happy. As long as we are not doing anything bad, they will be okay. They have seen some of our shows too, so that is nice."
They have at least three show engagements a month for events such as company dinner parties and charity shows. Other times, they are busy with rehearsals and music recordings. They released one album late last year and hope to put out a second one in the coming months.
The group's songs are mostly sung in Burmese, with smatterings of English words and phrases.
Me N Ma Girls - their name is a homophone for Myanmar girls - was formed two years ago under the guidance of Myanmar-based Australian dancer Nicole May, who selected the five girls from more than 120 audition candidates.
They are confident, chatty women who go against the typical stereotype of a naive Burmese girl. All are dating except Kimmy.
Though Ah Moon has the strongest grasp of spoken English - she even speaks with a slight American twang - the rest can converse in it relatively well.
The kind of music they listened to growing up might have something to do with their spoken English ability.
Ah Moon says: "We listened to Western music such as Britney Spears. We listened to a lot of Western pop, R&B and rock. Of course, we also had a lot of 'copy tracks' around. These are Burmese versions of Western songs. These days, K-pop has also become very popular.
"Foreigners think that everyone in Myanmar is very poor, uneducated and does not know anything, but it's not true."
The group's recent trip to Singapore is only their second overseas outing. Late last year, they travelled to Bangkok, Thailand, where they filmed a music video for their song "Liar!".
Other than the different food and culture, there is one thing in particular that both trips have gotten them excited about: the fashion.
Wai Hnin, 23, says: "The girls can wear anything they want and I think everyone looks so fashionable. It's very 'freestyle', which is different from Myanmar."
In comparison, the group say that they have to be more cautious about their clothing choices.
Htike Htike, 24, says: "We won't wear anything too low-cut or skirts that are too short. And we will never wear bikinis. It's just not part of our culture."
Ah Moon adds: "When I go out with the group, I might wear a pair of shorts. But if I'm at home with my grandfather, I will put on a pair of jeans."
The group are eager to travel to more places around the world should they get the chance.
Htike Htike says: "Hopefully, we'll get to travel to many more countries around the world. There is a lot of foreign media who have written about us, so people may have heard of us over there, but they do not actually know our music.
"We would rather go to those places and perform, so that we can spread our music. We really want to be able to bring a bit of Myanmar to the other parts of the world."