MMA as an acronym for mixed-martial arts may call to mind flying karate chops and headlocks but it now also has a new meaning, this time evoking the gentler art of music writing.
Yes, MMA also now means Music of the Marianas Association, representing the group that is at the forefront of promoting and inspiring local musicians.
“MMA was organized to inspire, promote, preserve local and young musicians through music, which help strengthen our language, culture, and history,” said the group’s current president, John J. Concepcion.
Concepcion, who was born on Saipan and raised in Guam, had a good career in the U.S. mainland but could not resist the siren call of his motherland. He moved back to the island in 2013 with his family.
“I wanted my son to grow up on the island so he that he will know our family’s roots,” he said.
The trip back to Saipan gave Concepcion the opportunity to do things that he loved doing as a young boy such as to write songs that talks about the Marianas life. He is currently a firefighter by profession but, unlike embers, his passion for music never died.
MMA was established early 2017 under the initiative of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and several other musicians.
“The Marianas have been waiting for an opportunity like this. MMA is a pool of local musicians—professionals or just starting. We are here to push each other up and to organize singing contests, music events and concerts,” Concepcion added.
As one of its first public gig, the group was tapped to sing the national anthem last May 5, 2017, at the Marianas March Against Cancer.
“We were honored to sing the national anthem at the Marianas March Against Cancer in English, Chamorro and Carolinian,” Concepcion said. “MMA is open to anyone or any event that needs entertainment.”
MMA recently organized a singing contest called the 2017 Chamolinian Jam Contest that was held during the Flame Tree Art Festival last April 22, 2017. “We had a good turnout of participants with amazing talents. We support and believe in local talents,” he said.
MMA’s other goals are to help local musicians land entertainment jobs in hotels.
“We have a wide array of musicians that hotels can hire. Many musicians from Saipan, Tinian and Rota are looking for jobs. When I worked as a musician in a hotel in Guam, medical benefit was inclusive. Sadly, it is not the same with the hotels here on island,” Concepcion said.
Currently, MMA is open for membership with no fee. The only requirements are dedication and love for local music. Musicians and dancers, whether professionals or not, are welcome to participate.
MMA’s ultimate goal is to safeguard the plight of local music. “It is all about the music. We have to preserve and create awareness for the younger generation. If we do not do anything now, then the new generation will eventually won’t listen or play local music. Local music provides history and helps you how to speak the local language. Music helps train your tongue,” Concepcion said.
Last month, MMA collaborated with FIJI and friends who came to Saipan to do a seminar on singing. As a result, the band selected some participants to join a CD album that FIJI will produce.
“MMA cannot do it alone. We hope that the whole community will get involved. We need everyone—whether you are a musician, parent, or teacher. We also want to work with the Executive Branch and Legislature to help us reach our goals to protect, promote and preserve local music and musicians. Community comes together and we firmly believe that music can do all of that,” he added.