We first told you about the pop group the Me N Ma Girls early last year. Their career was taking off, and their native Myanmar was in the very early days of emerging from decades of military rule. There have been some big changes in the country and for the group since then.
A couple of week's ago brought another milestone: the Me N Ma Girls' first show in the U.S. We talked to them a few hours before that show, which wasn't, by they way, at some off-brand, dimly-lit club. It was at Lincoln Center in New York City.
The last time we talked with them, in January of 2012, they were really excited about a small victory they'd just won from Myanmar's censorship board: they were allowed to wear colored wigs in one of their music videos.
"When we heard that news we shouted and chanted," band member Htike Htike enthused at the time.
Today, that censorship board doesn't even exist.
"Now we can sing freely and we have freedom of speech. That's why we're really glad," Htike Htike told us when we caught up with the five members of the Me N Ma Girls in the lobby of the swank midtown Manhattan hotel where they were staying, right across from Lincoln Center.
They say one thing they did with their expanded freedom was pen the new song "Come Back Home."
The lyrics talk about how much potential Myanmar has right now, and how the country needs all of the expats who fled during decades of repression and bleak prospects.
Htike Htike summarizes the song's message this way: "Please come back home to build for our country. Let's do it together; let's build together."
"Most of Myanmar people are, you know, shy and afraid to express their feelings because they have been under the military government. Even me," Me N Ma Girl Ah Mon continues. "Now is the time to wake up and time to show them what we've got. You can live everywhere because it's better, but your home is here. It's here that we need you, because we're building, recreating a new country."
The group got a dose of Myanmar pride while they were touring New York City before their gig, at a place you might not imagine pop groups going for inspiration. "I can't believe, oh my God, I'm here in UN, and I'm seeing everything in the UN building," says Winnie.
She and the other Me N Ma Girls toured United Nations headquarters, and posed for a picture in the main General Assembly hall. The place has a particular significance for their country–the UN's third Secretary General, U Thant, was from Myanmar, and is still a national hero.
"When I saw the U Thant picture, you know, at that time I can feel it: 'Oh my God, we can do it what we want, we can be a leader'. That's good; that feeling is so amazing and so great, yeah," says Cha Cha.
The good feelings continued. A few hours after we talked to them they closed the annual Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center. Hillary Clinton had opened the day. Then the band was off to L.A. to record some more tracks for their first international album.
The Me N Ma Girls at the UN (Photo Credit: Me N Ma Girls Facebook page)
The Me N Ma Girls on stage at Lincoln Center for the Women in the World Summit. From left to right, Htike Htike, Winnie, Cha Cha, Ah Mon, and Kimmie. (Photo: Marc Bryan Brown / Women in the World summit)