Kala is the second studio album by British musician M.I.A., released in August 2007. The album features musical styles ranging from dance music to alternative hip hop and makes extensive use of South Asian music such as that of the urumee, a drum used in gaana music native to Tamil Nadu, India. It was mainly written and produced by M.I.A. and Switch, and features contributions from Timbaland, Diplo, Afrikan Boy and The Wilcannia Mob.
M.I.A. named the album after her mother, in contrast to her first album Arular, which was named after her father, and stated that her mother's struggles in life are a major theme of the recording. She began recording the album in early 2006 and worked on the tracks in various locations around the world, including India, Jamaica, Australia, Liberia and Trinidad. Planned sessions in the United States failed to occur, after M.I.A. was refused a long-term work visa to enter the country.
Kala was ranked as one of the best albums of the year by several publications. It reached number 18 on the Billboard 200 chart, 172 places higher than Arular, and topped the magazine's Top Electronic Albums chart. In the United Kingdom it reached number 39 on the UK Albums Chart, 59 places higher than her debut album. Kala has spawned the singles "Boyz", "Jimmy" and "Paper Planes".
Composition and recording
M.I.A. (Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam) had released her debut album Arular in 2005, which achieved critical acclaim and sold 130,000 copies. Plans for a second album were first revealed when she spoke later that year of her intention to work with American producer Timbaland. At one point it was anticipated that he would produce the bulk of the album. However, she was unable to gain a long-term work visa to enter the U.S., reportedly due to her family's connections with guerrillas in Sri Lanka. This led to conflicts between the two artists' schedules and meant that Timbaland's involvement was restricted to a poorly received guest verse on the track "Come Around". M.I.A. instead opted to record the album at a variety of locations around the world, beginning by travelling to India following the last date of her Arular Tour in Japan in February 2006.
She initially travelled to India to meet A. R. Rahman, but found it hard to communicate her ideas to him and the planned musical collaboration did not take place. Rahman did, however, provide M.I.A. with a number of contacts and allow her to use his studio, where 22 members of drumming group The Tapes were recorded for Kala. Producer Switch, who had initially travelled to India purely to engineer the planned sessions, ultimately became involved in the composition of several tracks for the album. A visit to Angola to work with DJ Znobia was cancelled after Znobia was involved in a car accident, but M.I.A. was able to record in Trinidad, Liberia, Jamaica and Australia. She and Switch relied heavily on Logic Pro, a digital audio workstation produced by Apple, and were able to capture vocals and background sounds outside the traditional studio environment, using a microphone and a Macbook Pro. The album features guest vocals from Afrikan Boy, The Wilcannia Mob, and Timbaland, and further collaborations with Switch, Blaqstarr, Morganics and Diplo. She likened the process of recording the album to "making a big old marble cake with lots of different countries and influences. Then you slice it up and call each slice a song".
Music and lyrics
Kala is named after M.I.A.'s mother, in contrast to her previous album, Arular, which was named after her father. She contends that Arular was a "masculine" album, but that Kala "is about my mum and her struggle–how do you work, feed your children, nurture them and give them the power of information?" She further summed the album up as "shapes, colours, Africa, street, power, bitch, nu world, and brave."
AfrikanBoyMIA.jpgthumbright240pxalt=A man wearing an African-style hat, sunglasses, and a large gold chain, and holding a microphone. In the background a woman in brightly coloured clothing and sunglasses is also holding a microphone and is waving one hand in the airAfrikan Boy performing live with M.I.A. in France. He provided vocals for the track "Hussel".
The tracks "Boyz" and "Bird Flu" use urumee drums, a signature instrument of Gaana, a Tamil genre of music, with which M.I.A. was familiar from her time spent living in Sri Lanka. She later worked on these tracks in Trinidad, where she absorbed influences from the country's love of soca music. The lyrics of "Boyz" deal with the artist's time in Jamaica, and reference Jamaican dance moves. The song "Hussel" began as an image in M.I.A.'s head of refugees being smuggled in boats, which she expressed musically by imagining how "if they banged that beat on the side of a boat, what would it sound like? That's why it's all echo-y and submarine-y". The sounds on the intro were recorded from Keralan fishermen chanting as they pull their fishing boats into the water. "World Town" used instrumentation from the temple music she recalled waking up to as a child in Sri Lanka. After playing the track to children in Liberia, she expressed a desire to record a video for the song there. M.I.A.'s "flat, unaffected vocals and delivery of lyrics" on some songs drew comparisons to British post-punk bands such as Delta 5 and The Slits. She says it "was just what was happening to me naturally...I wanted it to be difficult and raw and not get into it so much".
Afrikan Boy, an exponent of grime, a UK-based genre of urban music, provided vocals on the song "Hussel". M.I.A. opted to work with him because she felt that he seemed comfortable with his identity as a "real immigrant" and because his background was different to that of most MCs in the genre. She had originally planned to include "Mango Pickle Down River"—her remix of The Wilcannia Mob's song "Down River"—on a mix-tape, but chose to include it on the album because she felt it was rare to hear the "aboriginal voice" in recorded music, and described opening track "Bamboo Banga" as having a "bamboo-stick beat, house-y feel". The song "Jimmy" was included as a tribute to her mother and is M.I.A.'s version of an old Bollywood film track to which she used to dance at parties as a child. Despite the involvement of Baltimore club musician Blaqstarr, "The Turn" turned out to be the album's only ballad, and the track has been described as the least like club music. "20 Dollar" was written about the relative ease of buying AK-47s in war-torn Liberia. "XR2" recalls part of the artist's life growing up with rave music in early 1990s London, while the song "Paper Planes" jokingly plays on M.I.A.'s problems with visas and certain perceptions of immigrants.
Release and artwork
Miakalap.jpgthumb130pxleftalt=A woman appears in three different poses wearing a police hat, bright neon blue short hair, large sunglasses, a gold chain, yellow and silver top, purple skirt and dark blue leggings. Her nails' are couloured in a light blue shade.M.I.A. in a 2007 promotional photo for the Kala release
In April 2007 Rolling Stone reported that Kala would be released on 26 June of that year. After being delayed for unknown reasons, the album was eventually released by XL Recordings on 8 August 2007 in Japan and on 20 August in the UK, and by Interscope Records on 21 August in the United States. The Japanese edition featured three extra tracks not included on the versions released in other countries. Following the unexpected commercial success of "Paper Planes", Kala was re-issued in the United Kingdom in October 2008. A 4 November 2008 U.S. re-release was announced, but as of late 2009 the album had not been re-issued in the United States.
The album's packaging includes photographs taken by M.I.A. and others in Liberia and Jamaica.Track listing and credits as per liner notes for Kala album The cover artwork to Kala, designed by M.I.A., features neon fractal patterns and repeated slogans, including "Fight On! Fight On! Fight On!", which surrounds her image on the front cover. The cover was considered garish, prompting The Village Voice to comment "Maybe one day make an album cover that it doesn't hurt to look at". Additional graphics for the album were provided by English fashion designer Carri Mundane (a.k.a Cassette Playa) and Steve Loveridge. The album's artwork was inspired by African art, "from dictator fashion to old stickers on the back of cars," which M.I.A hoped, like her artwork extended "Okley Run" clothing range, would capture "a 3-D sense, the shapes, the prints, the sound, film, technology, politics, economics" of a certain time.
M.i.a.148.jpgthumbright200pxThis text has been derived from Kala (album) on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam (; born 18 July 1975), better known by her stage name M.I.A., is a British singer-songwriter, rapper and record producer whose eclectic compositions combine elements of hip-hop, electronica, dance, alternative and world music.
M.I.A. began her career in 2000 as a visual artist and designer in West London. Since rising to prominence in early 2004 for her singles "Galang" and "Sunshowers," she has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards and the Mercury Prize. She released her debut album Arular in 2005 and second album Kala in 2007. Kala went gold in Canada and the United States and silver in the United Kingdom, and the singles "Boyz" and "Paper Planes" became North American top ten chart favourites in 2008. M.I.A.'s third album Maya was released in 2010 soon after the song-film short "Born Free," and reached the top ten in numerous countries worldwide. She has embarked on four global headlining tours and is the founder of her own multimedia label, N.E.E.T.. In 2008, M.I.A. was listed in Esquire magazine's list of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century and in 2009, Time magazine included M.I.A. in its annual Time 100 list of the world's most influential people.
M.I.A.'s early compositions relied heavily on the Roland MC-505 sequencer/drum machine, while later styles have created layered textures of instruments, electronics and unusual sound samples. A noted philanthropist and activist for many causes, her activism has been met with both appreciation and criticism. In 2002, she received an Alternative Turner Prize nomination for her art, and has been recognized for her work as a music video director, graphic and fashion designer.
Family and early life
M.I.A. was born in Hounslow, London to Arul Pragasam, an engineer, writer and activist, and his wife, Kala, a seamstress, who are both of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. M.I.A.'s maternal grandmother was a Tamil Hindu while her mother is a practicing Roman Catholic. The couple met in a pub in Hounslow and married when Kala needed to extend her visa. They had two daughters in England, Maya and Kali. When M.I.A. was six months old, her family moved to Jaffna, a town in northern Sri Lanka, where her brother Sugu was born. There, her father adopted the name Arular and became a political activist and founding member of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), a political Tamil group that worked to establish an independent Tamil Eelam in North Eastern Sri Lanka.
The first nine years of M.I.A.'s life were marked by displacement caused by the Sri Lankan Civil War. Her family went into hiding from the Sri Lankan Army as M.I.A.'s father was a LTTE terrorist supporter and contact between M.I.A. and her father was strictly limited. In Jaffna, M.I.A. attended Tamil convent schools where she developed her art skills—painting in particular— to work her way up her class. When the civil war broke out M.I.A.'s family relocated to Chennai in Tamil Nadu, India where they lived in a derelict house and received sporadic visits from M.I.A.'s father, who was introduced to the children as their "uncle". The family resettled in Jaffna temporarily, only to see the war escalate further in the north east and M.I.A.'s school was destroyed in a government raid. After experiencing violence at the hands of soldiers, M.I.A.'s mother moved with her children back to London in 1986 where they were housed as refugees.
M.I.A. grew up in the Phipps Bridge Estate in the Mitcham district of South London, where she learned to speak English. She graduated with a degree in fine art, film and video from London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Initially her application to the school was rejected, but she was eventually let in, being told that she "had chutzpah." For two years, M.I.A. lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, where she met her fiance, Benjamin Zachary Bronfman (aka Benjamin Brewer), an environmentalist, founder of Green Owl, musician and scion of the Bronfman dynasty. M.I.A. currently lives in Brentwood, Los Angeles in the U.S. She gave birth to her son Ikhyd Edgar Arular Bronfman in February 2009.
Visual art and film
While attending Central St Martins College, M.I.A. wanted to make films and art depicting realism that would be accessible to everyday people, something that she felt was missing from her classmates' ethics and the course criteria. At college, she found the fashion courses "disposable" and more current than the film texts that she studied. M.I.A. told Arthur magazine " exploring apathy, dressing up in some pigeon outfit, or running around conceptualizing...It missed the whole point of art representing society. Social reality didn’t really exist there; it just stopped at theory." She cited "radical cinema" including Harmony Korine, Dogme 95 and Spike Jonze as some of her cinematic inspirations during film school. As a student, she was approached by director John Singleton to work on a film in Los Angeles after he had read a script she had written, though she decided not to take up the request.
M.I.A. befriended students in the college fashion, advertising and graphics departments. She met Justine Frischmann, frontwoman of the British band Elastica, through her friend Damon Albarn, and Frischmann commissioned M.I.A. to create the cover art for the band's 2000 album, The Menace, and video document their American tour. M.I.A. returned to Jaffna in 2001 to film a documentary on Tamil youth, but was unable to complete the project because she encountered harassment. In 2001, M.I.A.'s first public exhibition of paintings after graduating took place at the Euphoria Shop on London's Portobello Road. It featured graffiti art and spray-paint canvasses mixing Tamil political street art with images of London life and consumerist culture. The show was nominated for the Alternative Turner Prize and a monograph book of the collection was published in 2002, titled M.I.A.. Actor Jude Law was among early buyers of her art.
Early music career: 2000–2004
MIASonar2.jpgthumbrightM.I.A. performing at Sónar on her Arular Tour
M.I.A. cites the radio broadcasts she heard emanating from her neighbours' flats in the late '80s as some of her first exposures to her earliest musical influences. From there, she developed an interest in hip-hop and dancehall, identifying with "the starkness of the sound" in records by Public Enemy, MC Shan and Ultramagnetic MCs; and the "weird, distinct style" of acts such as Silver Bullet and London Posse. In college she developed an affinity for punk and the emerging sounds of Britpop and electroclash. M.I.A. cites The Slits, Malcolm McLaren and The Clash as major influences.
By 2001, M.I.A. designed the cover for Elastica's last single "The Bitch Don't Work", and went on the road with the band to video document their tour. The tour's supporting act, electroclash artist Peaches, introduced M.I.A. to the Roland MC-505 and encouraged M.I.A. to make music, a medium in which M.I.A. lacked confidence. While vacationing together in Bequia in the Caribbean, M.I.A. began experimenting with Frischmann's MC-505. She adopted her stage name, "M.I.A.", standing for "Missing In Acton" during this time. Returning to London, where she shared an apartment with Frischmann, she began working with a simple set-up (a second-hand 4-track tape machine, the MC-505, and a radio microphone), composing and recording a six song demo tape that included "Lady Killa", "M.I.A.", and "Galang".
In 2003, the independent label Showbiz Records pressed 500 vinyl singles of "Galang", a mix of dancehall, electro, jungle, and world music, with Seattle Weekly praising its a cappella coda as a "lift-up-and-over moment" evoking "clear skies beyond the council flats." sharing, college radio airplay, and the rise in popularity of "Galang" and "Sunshowers" in dance clubs and fashion shows made M.I.A. an underground sensation. M.I.A. has been heralded as one of the first artists to build a large fanbase exclusively via these channels and as someone who could be studied to reexamine the internet's impact on how listeners are exposed to new music. Major record labels caught on to the popularity of "Galang", and M.I.A. eventually signed to XL Recordings in mid 2004. Her debut album, to be titled Arular, was finalized by borrowing studio time.
Her next single, "Sunshowers", released on 5 July 2004, and its B-side ("Fire Fire") described guerrilla warfare and asylum seeking, merging ambiguous references to violence and religious persecution with black and white forms of dissidence. For "Sunshowers", M.I.A. wrote her first music video, filmed in the jungles of South India, which she has described as her favourite. "Galang" was re-released in 2004. The music video for "Galang" made in November of that year featured art direction by M.I.A., showing multiple M.I.A.s against a backdrop of militaristic animated graffiti, and depicted scenes of urban Britain and war. Both singles appeared on international publications' "Best of the Year" lists and subsequently "Best of the Decade" lists. The songs "Pull Up the People", "Bucky Done Gun" and "10 Dollar" were released as 12-inch singles and CDs by XL Recordings, which along with the non-label mashup mixtape of Arular tracks, Piracy Funds Terrorism, were distributed in 2004.
Mia20061.jpgleftthumbupright160pxM.I.A. performing at the Prince in Melbourne in February 2006.
M.I.A. made her North American debut in February 2005 at the Drake Hotel in Toronto where concertgoers already knew many of her songs. In March 2005, M.I.A.'s debut album Arular was released worldwide to critical acclaim after several months delay. The album title is the nom de guerre that M.I.A.'s father took when he joined the Tamil independence movement, and many of the songs acknowledge her and her father's experiences in Jaffna. While making Arular in her bedroom in west London, she built tracks off her demos, using beats she programmed on the Roland MC-505. The album experiments with bold, jarring and ambient sounds, and its lyrics address the Iraq War and daily life in London as well as M.I.A.'s past.
M.I.A. received praise from artists such as the rapper Nas, who in early 2005 called her sound "the future". "Galang", "Sunshowers" and the funk carioca-inspired co-composition "Bucky Done Gun" were released as singles from Arular. The release of the latter marked the first time that a funk carioca-inspired song was played on mainstream radio and music television in Brazil, its country of origin. M.I.A. worked with one of her musical influences Missy Elliott, contributing to the track "Bad Man" on her 2005 album The Cookbook. Despite initial fears that her dyslexia might pose problems while touring, M.I.A. supported the album through a series of festival and club shows, including the Bue Festival, a free headlining show at Central Park Summerstage, the Summer Sonic Fest and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where she played an encore in response to crowd enthusiasm, a rare occurrence for the festival. She also toured with Roots Manuva and LCD Soundsystem, and ended 2005 briefly touring with Gwen Stefani and performing at the Big Day Out festival.
On 19 July 2005, M.I.A. was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize for Arular. According to the music review aggregation Metacritic, it garnered an average score of 88 out of 100, described as "universal acclaim". They reported in 2010 that Arular was the seventh best reviewd album of 2005 and the ninth Best-Reviewed Electronic/Dance Album on Metacritic of the 2000-09 decade. Arular became the second most featured album in music critics’ Year-End Top 10 lists for 2005 and was named best of the year by publications such as Blender, Stylus and Musikbyrån.
Flickr - moses namkung - M.I.A. 7 NR.jpgright220pxthumbuprightM.I.A. performing a song at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in August 2009
In 2006 M.I.A. recorded her second studio album Kala, this time named after her mother. Due to censorship and visa complications in the United States, the album was recorded in a variety of locations—India, Trinidad, Liberia, Jamaica, Australia, Japan, and the UK. Eventually the album was completed in the U.S.
Kala featured live instrumentation and layers of traditional dance and folk styles such as soca and the urumee drum of gaana, rave music and bootleg soundtracks of Tamil film music, incorporating new styles into her electronic dance music. The songs, artwork and fashion of Kala have been characterized as simultaneously celebratory and infused with raw, "darker, outsider" themes, such as immigration politics, personal relationships and war. The first track from the album to be made available to the public was "Bird Flu", which was posted on M.I.A.'s MySpace page, with an accompanying music video, in February 2007. Later that year, M.I.A. featured in the song "Come Around", a bonus track on Timbaland's 2007 album Shock Value and a track on Kala. The album's first official single "Boyz" was released in June 2007, accompanied by a music video co-directed by Jay Will and M.I.A., becoming M.I.A.'s first top ten charting song. The single "Jimmy", written about an invitation to tour genocide-affected regions in Rwanda that the singer received from a journalist while staying in Liberia, was released next. The single "Paper Planes" and the EP Paper Planes - Homeland Security Remixes EP were released digitally in February 2008, the single eventually selling three times platinum in the U.S. and Canada, becoming the 29th most downloaded song in the digital era in the U.S. and earning a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year. (user must enter "M.I.A." and "Paper Planes" in search fields and click "Go") In the same year, M.I.A. released the How Many Votes Fix Mix EP which included a remix of "Boyz" featuring Jay-Z.
Like its predecessor, universal acclaim met Kala's release in August 2007 and the album earned a normalised rating of 87 out of 100 on the review aggregator MetaCritic. Kala was a greater commercial success than Arular. To support Kala, M.I.A.'s Kala Tour featuring performances in Europe, America and Asia began soon after its release. Festival appearances included Rock en Seine, Get Loaded in the Park, the Electric Picnic, Connect, the Virgin Festivals, the Osheaga Festival and Parklife Festival, and the singer performed three dates opening for Björk in the U.S. and France. M.I.A. provided guest vocals on tour supporting act Buraka Som Sistema's kuduro song "Sound of Kuduro", recorded in Angola with an accompanying video. In the same year, M.I.A. and director Spike Jonze filmed a documentary in the immigrant neighborhood of Woolwich, South London, where they visited Afrikan Boy, a Nigerian immigrant rapper who appears on Kala track "Hussel." In Spike Jonze Spends Saturday With M.I.A., she disclosed her plans to launch her own record label, Zig-Zag, with Afrikan Boy’s track "Lidl" being its first release. She ended the year with concerts in the United Kingdom. By year end, Kala was named the best album of 2007 by publications including Rolling Stone and Blender. MetaCritic reported in 2010 that Kala was the tenth
Best-Reviewed Electronic/Dance Album on Metacritic of the 2000-09 decade, one position below her debut album Arular.
M.I.A. performed on the People vs. Money Tour during the first half of 2008. She cancelled the final leg of her tour in Europe through June and July after revealing her intentions to take a career break and work on other art projects, go back to college and make a film. Her last performance of the tour was at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.
In 2008, M.I.A. started her record label N.E.E.T. Recordings. The first artist signed to the label was Baltimore rapper Rye Rye. M.I.A. contributed songs for A. R. Rahman's score of the film Slumdog Millionaire, which included the collaboration "O…Saya"; she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Song Written Directly for a Film for the song. M.I.A. was due to perform at the Oscars ceremony two weeks after her Grammy Award performance, but could not as she had just given birth to her son. M.I.A. is the first person of Asian descent to be nominated for an Oscar and Grammy award in the same year.
Seeking to promote new, underground music with N.E.E.T., M.I.A. signed more bands including Baltimore musician Blaqstarr, indie rock band Sleigh Bells and visual artist Jaime Martinez by late 2009. 3D photographic images of M.I.A. by Martinez were commissioned in April of that year. In August 2009, M.I.A. began composing and recording her third studio album in a home studio section in her Los Angeles house. In January 2010, M.I.A. posted her video for the song "Space" from her forthcoming third album. While composing it, M.I.A. co-wrote a song with Christina Aguilera called "Elastic Love" for Aguilera's album Bionic.
By April 2009, the song and music video/short film "Born Free," a song from Maya, were leaked online and later released via M.I.A.'s official website and online music stores. The video-film short was directed by Romain Gavras and written by M.I.A., depicting genocide against red-haired adolescents being forced to run across a minefield and caused controversy due to its graphically violent content. Although not an official single, the song charted in Sweden and the United Kingdom. M.I.A.'s third album, Maya—stylised as /\/\ /\ Y /\, a typographic equivalent of M.I.A.'s legal name—was released on 23 June 2010 in Japan with bonus tracks before its release in other countries. Maya became M.I.A.'s highest charting album globally. Originally set to be released on 29 June 2010 in the U.S., her record label announced a new release date of 13 July 2010. The album garnered a generally favourable, although divided, reception from critics. Maya was a more internet-inspired album, illustrating how a multimedia artist such as herself worked within the music industry. Elements of industrial music were incorporated into M.I.A.'s avant garde sound for the first time. She described the album in an interview with Dazed and Confused as a mix of "babies, death, destruction and powerlessness".
The first official single from Maya, "XXXO", was released on 11 May 2010 and reached the top 40 in Belgium, Spain and the U.K. "Steppin' Up", "Teqkilla", and "Tell Me Why" were also released as promotional singles exclusively on iTunes in the days leading to the release of Maya, with "Teqkilla" reaching the top 100 in Canada on digital downloads alone. (User must click "Launch" to open the Visualizer tool, then select "Canadian Hot 100" from the drop-down menu.) The video for "XXXO" was released online in August. M.I.A. hinted in an interview to Blitz that a music video is being made with director Spike Jonze for the single "Teqkilla."
M.I.A. performed at the 2010 Virgin Mobile Festival, Festival Sudoeste, Way Out West Festival, The Big Chill, Underage Festival, Øyafestivalen, the Flow Festival and Rencontres Trans Musicales. She finished 2010 completing the European leg of the Maya Tour.
From 2000–2010, she has directed the video for Elastica single "Mad Dog God Dam" and videos for her songs "Bird Flu", "Boyz", "S.U.S. (Save Ur Soul)", "Space" and "XXXO", and a video for Rye Rye's "Bang". She judged in the Music Video category at the inaugural Vimeo Festival & Awards in New York in October 2010.
M.I.A. released her second mixtape, Vicki Leekx, on 31 December 2010.
On 11 January 2011, Interscope released Internet Connection: The Remixes, an EP to a bonus track from /\/\ /\ Y /\.
Music style and image
M.I.A.'s music features styles such as electro, reggae, rhythm and blues, alternative rock, hip hop, grime, rap ballads and Asian folk and references to her musical influences such as Missy Elliott, Tamil film music, Lou Reed, The Pixies, Beastie Boys and London Posse. She was a childhood fan of Boney M and pop artist Michael Jackson and has been influenced by The Slits, Public Enemy, Malcolm McLaren and The Clash.
M.I.A. describes her music as dance music or club music for the "other", and has stressed her preference of being an "anti-popstar". M.I.A.'s early compositions relied heavily on the Roland MC-505, while later M.I.A. experimented further with her established sound and drew from a range of genres, creating layered textures of instruments, electronics and sounds outside the traditional studio environment.
Jimmy Iovine, chairman of M.I.A.'s American distribution label Interscope, compares M.I.A. to Reed and punk rock songwriter Patti Smith, and recalled, "She's gonna do what she's gonna do, I can't tell her shit." "The really left-of-center artists, you really wonder about them. Can the world catch up? Can the culture meet them in the middle? That’s what the adventure is. It doesn’t always happen, but it should and it could." Richard Russell, head of XL Recordings, states, "You've got to bend culture around to suit you, and I think M.I.A has done that" adding that M.I.A.'s composition and production skills were a major attraction for him. As a vocalist, M.I.A. is recognisable by her distinctive whooping, chanting voice, which has been described as having an "indelible, nursery-rhyme swing." She has adopted different singing styles on her songs, from aggressive raps, to semi-spoken and melodic vocals. She has said of the sometimes "unaffected" vocals and delivery of her lyrics, "It is what it is. Most people would just put it down to me being lazy. But at the same time, I don’t want ," saying some of the "raw and difficult" vocal styles she used reflected what was happening to her during recording. Sasha Frere-Jones, critic of The New Yorker praised the self made "unpretentious, stuck together with Scotch tape" style that M.I.A. achieves with her Roland MC-505 drum machine and keyboard unit, noting that many people had tried to copy the style since. The Guardian critic Hattie Collins commented of M.I.A.'s influence, "A new raver before it was old. A baile funk/pop pioneer before CSS and Bonde do Rolê emerged. A quirky female singer/rapper before the Mini Allens had worked out how to log on to MySpace. Missing In Action (or Acton, as she sometimes calls herself) has always been several miles ahead of the pack."
M.I.A.'s stage performances are described as "highly energetic", often with scenes of what Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield describes as "jovial chaos, with dancers and toasters and random characters roaming the stage." Camille Dodero, writing in The Village Voice opined that M.I.A. "works hard to manifest the chaos of her music in an actual environment, and, more than that, to actively create discomfort, energy, and anger through sensory overload." Her role as an artist in and voice lender to the subaltern is appreciated by theorists as having brought such ideas to first world view. USA Today included her on its list of the 100 Most Interesting People of 2007 and she was named one of Time Out 's 40th Birthday London Heroes in 2008. The same year, Esquire listed M.I.A. as one of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st century, describing her as the first and only major artist in world music, and in 2009 she was cited in Time magazine's Time 100 as one of the world's most influential people for her global influence across many genres. In December 2010, USA Today listed M.I.A. at number 63 on its list of the "100 People of 2010".
Themes and artwork
M.I.A. has become known for integrating her imagery of political violence into her music videos and her cover art. Her politically inspired art became recognized while she exhibited and published several of her brightly coloured stencils and paintings portraying the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and urban Britain in the early 2000s. Some of the lyrics on Arular are reflective of her experiences regarding identity politics, poverty, revolution, gender and sexual stereotypes, war, and the conditions of working class in London. The album references the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Tamil independence movements and features culture jamming, multi-lingual slang, strident and subtle imagery. Her social commentary and storytelling have incited debate on the "invigoratingly complex" politics of the issues she highlighted in the album. Government visits to her official website following her debut album's release in 2005, and a U.S. refusal to grant M.I.A. a travel visa coupled with her brief presence on the U.S. Homeland Security Risk List in 2006 due to her politically charged lyrics led to her second album Kala being recorded in a variety of locations around the world.
AfrikanBoyMIA.jpgthumb220pxleftAfrikan Boy, an Afrobeat/grime London MC with Nigerian roots supporting M.I.A. at the Rock en Seine Festival, 2007
On Kala, M.I.A.'s songs explored immigration politics and her personal relationships. Many related her experiences during recording sessions in Chennai, Angola, Trinidad shantytowns, Liberia and London, and were well acclaimed. The album's artwork was inspired by African art, "from dictator fashion to old stickers on the back of cars," which like her clothing range, she hoped would capture "a 3-D sense, the shapes, the prints, the sound, film, technology, politics, economics" of a certain time. I-D magazine described the "bleeding cacophany of graphics" on her website during this time as evoking the "noisy amateurism" of the early web, but also embodying a rejection of today's "glossy, professional site design" which was felt to "efface the medium rather than celebrate it." Jeff Chang, writing for The Nation, described a "Kala for the Nation" and the album's music, lyrics and imagery as encompassing "everywhere—or, to be specific, everywhere but the First World's self-regarding 'here'," stating that against a media flow that suppresses the "ugliness" of reality and fixes beauty to consumption, M.I.A. forces a conversation about how the majority live, closing the distance "between 'here' and everywhere else". He felt that Kala explored poverty, violence and globalization through the eyes of "children left behind."
Her third album, Maya, tackled information politics in the digital age, loaded with technological references and love songs, and deemed by Kitty Empire writing in The Observer to be her most melancholic and mainstream effort. Her genocide-depicting 2010 video for the single "Born Free" was deemed by Ann Powers writing in the Los Angeles Times to be "concentrating fully" on the physical horror of gun butts and bullets hitting flesh, with the scenes giving added poignancy to the lyrical themes of the song. Interpreted as a comment on the Arizona immigration law, America's military might and desensitised attitudes towards violence, some critics described the film as "sensationalist". Neda Ulaby of NPR described the video as intended for "shock value" in the service of nudging people into considering real issues that can be hard to talk about. M.I.A. revealed that she felt "disconnected" during the writing process, and spoke of the Internet inspiration and themes of information politics that could be found in the songs and the artwork.
Her work has generated widespread acclaim. PopMatters writer Rob Wheaton felt M.I.A. subverted the "abstract, organized, refined" distilling of violence in Western popular music and imagination and made her work represent much of the developing world's decades-long experiences of "arbitrary, unannounced, and spectacular" slaughter, deeming her work an "assault" with realism. Some detractors criticized M.I.A. early in her music career for "using radical chic" and for her attendance of an art school. Critic Simon Reynolds, writing in The Village Voice in 2005 saw this as a lack of authenticity and felt M.I.A. was "a veritable vortex of discourse, around most likely irresolvable questions concerning authenticity, postcolonialism, and dilettantism". Critic Robert Christgau described Reynolds' argument as "cheap tack" in another article written in the publication, stating M.I.A's experiences connected her to world poverty in a way "few Western whites can grasp". Reynolds later argued that M.I.A. was the "Artist of the Decade" in a 2009 issue of The Guardian. Music culture writer Michael Meyer opined that M.I.A.'s record imagery, lyrical booklets, homepages and videos supported the "image of provocation yet also avoidance of, or inability to use consistent images and messages." Instead of catering to stereotypes, he felt that M.I.A. "played with them" creating an uncategorizable and hence unsettling result. M.I.A. has been hailed as demonstrating dislocation to be a "productive site of departure" and praised for her ability to transform such a "disadvantage" into a creative form of expression.
M.I.A. views her work as reflective, pieced together in one piece "so you can acquire it and hear it." She states, "All that information floats around where we are—the images, the opinions, the discussions, the feelings—they all exist, and I felt someone had to do something about it because I can't live in this world where we pretend nothing really matters." Censorship on MTV of "Sunshowers" proved controversial and was again criticized following Kala release "Paper Planes". YouTube's block and subsequent age gating/obscuring of the video for "Born Free" from Maya due to its graphic violence/political subtext was criticized by M.I.A. as hypocritical, citing the Internet channel's streaming of real-life killings. She went on to state,
"It's just fake blood and ketchup and people are more offended by that than the execution videos", referring to clips of Sri Lankan troops extra-judicially shooting unarmed, blindfolded, naked men that she had previously tweeted. Despite the block, the video remained on her website and Vimeo, and has been viewed 30 million times on the internet.
Miadigitalnewcastle.jpg150pxthumbrightM.I.A. performing on the Kala Tour in Newcastle
M.I.A.'s consistent addressing of several conflicts and oppressed peoples around the world, including the Tamils, Palestinians and African Americans has been both heralded and criticized. M.I.A. notes that the voicelessness she felt as a child dictated her role as a refugee advocate and voice lender to civilians in war during her career, saying in an interview with music magazine Clash in June 2010:
M.I.A. attributes much of her success to the "homeless, rootlessness" of her early life, and is considered to be a refugee icon. The 2008 Experience Music Project's Pop Conference held in Seattle featured paper submissions and discussions on M.I.A. presented on the theme of "Shake, Rattle: Music, Conflict, and Change."Clover, Joshua, . Pop Conference. Experience Music Project 2008. Retrieved 24 May 2008 Throughout her career, M.I.A. has used networking sites such as Twitter and MySpace to discuss and highlight the human rights abuses Sri Lanka is accused of perpetrating against Tamils. M.I.A. has joined other activists in condemning the actions of the Sri Lankan government against the Tamils during the civil war as "systematic genocide". Sri Lanka's Foreign Secretary denied that his country perpetrated genocide, responding that he felt M.I.A. was "misinformed" and that she should "stay with what she's good at, which is music, not politics." Consequently, she has been accused of being a "terrorist sympathiser" and "LTTE supporter" by the Sri Lankan government, whose agents have threatened listeners with prosecution if they post her music videos on the internet. Miranda Sawyer of The Observer felt that M.I.A. was emotional and that this could be limiting her, stating that while she was well informed, "you're not meant to get involved when giving information out about war", and that the difficulty for M.I.A. was that the world "doesn't really care." M.I.A. endorsed candidate Jan Jananayagam at the 2009 European Parliament election, a last minute candidate standing on a platform of anti-genocide, civil liberties, financial transparency, the environment and women's rights, who became one of the most successful independent election candidates ever despite her loss in the general election. Death threats directed at M.I.A. and her son have followed her activism, which she also cited as an influence on the songs on her album Maya. In 2010, she condemned China's role in supporting and supplying arms to the Sri Lankan government during the conflict in an interview with music magazine Mondomix, stating that China's influence within the United Nations was preventing prosecutions of war crimes committed during the conflict.
MIAbentwitterfounders.jpg160pxthumbleftM.I.A. with partner Ben Bronfman and Twitter founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams
The same year, M.I.A. voiced her fears of the influence of video game violence on her son and his generation, saying, "I don't know which is worse. The fact that I saw it in my life has maybe given me lots of issues, but there's a whole generation of American kids seeing violence on their computer screens and then getting shipped off to Afghanistan. They feel like they know the violence when they don't. Not having a proper understanding of violence, especially what it's like on the receiving end of it, just makes you interpret it wrong and makes inflicting violence easier."
M.I.A.'s attempts to provoke are both lauded and questioned, with her complete control of her output noted by Harpers & Queen in 2005 as the primary reason for her success. Prior to her 2008 Coachella festival appearance, M.I.A. filmed from her Bed Stuy apartment window and posted on YouTube an incident involving a black man being apprehended by white police officers, which in light of the Sean Bell shooting incident, elicited commentary debating the force used for the arrest. During the recording of the album Maya, she spoke of the combined effects that news corporations and search engine Google have on news and data collection, while stressing the need for alternative news sources that she felt her son's generation would need in order to ascertain truth. She told Nylon magazine that social networking site Facebook and Google's development "by the CIA" was harmful to internet freedom. Some criticized the claim as lacking detail.
Media portrayals of M.I.A. throughout her career have been called "problematic" by some commentators. M.I.A. confronted Pitchforkmedia over some of their writings in 2007. In 2010, criticism was directed at the New York Times, which included a tweet by M.I.A. saying "Fuck the New York Times," after the paper published controversial articles about M.I.A. and Sri Lanka. Following this, The New York Times Magazine published a controversial piece about M.I.A. and her activism, portraying her as hypocritical among other things. M.I.A. and others raised concerns of misrepresentation by the magazine. In 2010, she expressed disappointment that Wikileaks distributed their documents to other news publications—including the New York Times—to gain wider coverage, as she stated their "way of reporting" did not work.
Fashion and style
MIA Bonnaroo 2008.jpg200pxthumbrightM.I.A. performing on the People vs. Money Tour
M.I.A. cites guerrilla art and fashion as major influences. Her mother works as a seamstress in London. An early interest in fashion and textiles—designing confections of "bright fluorescent fishnet fabrics"—was a hallmark of her time at Central Saint Martins College. M.I.A. was a roommate of fashion designer Luella Bartley and is a long-time friend of designer Carri Mundane. Clothes from her limited-edition "Okley Run" line—Mexican and Afrika line jackets and leggings, Islamic-inspired and water melon-print hoodies, and tour-inspired designs—were sold in 2008 during New York fashion week. She commented, "I wanted to tie all my work together. When I make an album, I make a number of artworks that go with it, and now I make some clothes that go with it too. So this Okley run was an extension of my Kala album and artwork."
Contrary to her present style, M.I.A.'s Arular era style has been described as "tattered hand me downs and patched T-shirts of indigence", embodying the "uniform of the refugee" but modified with cuts, alterations and colours to fashion a distinctly new style and apparel line. M.I.A. built on this during the Kala era with a "playful" combination of baggy t-shirts, leggings and short-shorts. She incorporated eccentric accessories in bold patterns, sparkle and "over-saturated" neon colour to fashion her signature style which inspired flocks of "garishly-clothed all-too-sassy" new-rave girls with bright red tights, cheetah-skin smock and faded 80's T- shirts. Her commodifying and performance of this refugee image has been noted to "reposition" perceptions of it in the wider public. Hailed as presenting a challenge to the mainstream with her ironic style, M.I.A. has been praised for dictating such a subcultural trend worldwide, combining "adolescent" frustrations of race and class with a strong desire to dance.
M.I.A. was once denied entry into a Marc Jacobs party, but subsequently DJed at the designer's 2008 fashion show afterparty, and modelled for "Marc by Marc Jacobs" in Spring/Summer 2008. M.I.A.'s fashion and style landed her on Vogue's 10 Best Dressed of 2008. She turned down her inclusion on People magazine's list of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" the same year. M.I.A.'s status as a style icon, trendsetter and trailblazer is globally affirmed, with her distinct identity, style, and music illuminating social issues of gender, the third world, and popular music. Critics point out that such facets of her public persona underline the importance of authenticity, challenging the globalized popular music market, and demonstrating music's strive to be political. Her albums have been met with acclaim, often heralded as "eclectic" for possessing a genre all their own, "packaging inherent politics in the form of pleasurable dance music." M.I.A.'s artistic efforts to connect this "extreme eclecticism" with issues of exile, war, violence and terrorism are both commended and criticized. Commentators laud M.I.A.'s use and subversion of her refugee and migrant experiences, through the weaving of musical creativity, artwork and fashion with her personal life as having dispelled stereotypical notions of the immigrant experience. This gives her a unique place in popular music, while demanding new responses within popular music, media and fashion culture.
M.I.A. has funded Youth Action International and set up school-building projects in Liberia in 2006. She supports the Unstoppable Foundation, cofunding the establishment of the Becky Primary School in Liberia. During her visit to Liberia she met the then President of Liberia, rehabilitated ex-child soldiers and appeared as part of a humanitarian mission there, hosting a "4Real" TV-Series documentary on the post war situation in the country with activist Kimmie Weeks. Following her performance at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards afterparty, she donated her $100,000 performance fee to building more schools in the country, telling the crowd, "It costs $52,000 to build a school for 1,000." Winning the 2008 Official Soundclash Championships (iPod Battle) with her "M.I.A. and Friends" team, 20% of the following year's championship ticket sales were donated to her Liberian school building projects. In 2009, she supported the "Mercy Mission to Vanni" aid ship, destined to send civilian aid from Britain to Vanni and controversially blocked from reaching its destination. The country's navy announced that it would fire on any ship that entered its waters, and M.I.A. was singled out on the Sri Lankan army's official website after the singer announced her support for the campaign.
* Arular (2005)
* Kala (2007)
* Maya (2010)
* Arular Tour (2005)
* Kala Tour (2007)
* People vs. Money Tour (2008)
* Maya Tour (2010)
Some awards and nominations M.I.A. has received are listed below.
**2009: Nominated – Best Original Song – "O…Saya"
*Alternative Turner Prize
**2002: Shortlisted – M.I.A. – Maya Arulpragasam
*World Soundtrack Awards
**2009: Nominated – "O... Saya"
*ASCAP PRS Awards
**2009: Won – "Paper Planes"
**2009: Won – "Swagga Like Us"
** 2009: Nominated – British Female Solo Artist
** 2009: Won – Best Female Hip Hop Artist
** 2009: Nominated – Best New Artist
** 2009: Nominated – Record of the Year – "Paper Planes"
** 2009: Nominated – Best Rap Song – "Swagga Like Us"
*Groovevolt Music & Fashion Awards
** 2005: Won – Best Alternative Album – Arular
*Mercury Music Prize
** 2005: Shortlisted – Album of the Year – Arular
*South Bank Show Awards
** 2005: Nominated – Breakthrough Award – M.I.A.
*Shortlist Music Prize
** 2005: Shortlisted – Album of the Year – Arular
** 2007: Shortlisted – Album of the Year – Kala
** 2005: Nominated – Best New Act – M.I.A.
*Independent Music Awards (Canada)
** 2008: Nominated – International Album of the Year – Kala
** 2008: Nominated – International Artist/Group/Duo of the Year – M.I.A.
*UK Asian Music Awards
**2009: Won – Best Female Act
*Spin and URB magazines' "Artist of the Year" in 2005
*Rolling Stone and Blenders "Album of the Year" 2007 – Kala
*USA Todays "100 Most Interesting People of 2007"
*The Village Voices 2008 Pazz+Jop Poll: Singles Winner
*Times 2009 Top 100 World's Most Influential People
Books and further reading
* Arulpragasam, Maya (2002). M.I.A. No. 10 (Paperback ed.). Pocko Editions. ISBN 1-903977-10-X
* The Village Voice 20 January 2009
*This text has been derived from M.I.A. (artist) on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0