“I fly like paper, get high like planes. If you catch me at the border, I got visas in my name.”, if not this, then it is “They can’t touch me, we break off, run so fast they can’t even touch me.” that is playing on my mind and playlist since I have watched Slumdog Millionaire. Did I hear you say “Not again!”?. Believe me, this is the reason for my obsession with Slumdog Millionaire - M.I.A (No, not Mia the “pop-per”). I knew how the music of the movie was making waves everywhere and how A.R. Rahman was winning awards at international film festivals, but it was only when I heard Paper Planes on my friend’s cell phone that my interest in Slumdog Millionaire was sparked.
I do like A.R. Rahman’s songs on the soundtrack too but since I have grown up (LOL) listening to his music, from Roja to Yuvraaj, I find no novelty in them. But M.I.A captured and held prisoner, my attention with her fresh, groovy sound.
Paper Planes has a loopy, slightly “rappy” tune to it that makes you want to listen to it again when it ends. You will know what I mean once you come to the lines “Pirate skulls and bones, sticks and stones and weed and bongs” in the song. Add to it the chorus sung by children, along with gunshots and the ka-ching of coins, which provide the perfect rhythm to the chorus, and you have a killer of a song! M.I.A provides the perfect, rather fast jive with “Sweatshops have made me shifty, like a Ninja with speed I’m nifty, I hope I live till I’m fifty“, to A. R. Rahman’s melancholic humming in the track O… Saya.
I have been talking about M.I.A for so long, WHAT IS M.I.A!? M.I.A was born Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam on 18th July 1975, in London, to a family with Sri Lankan Tamil roots. Her early life was fraught with displacement, when the family decided to move to Sri Lanka and then her father’s political involvement with the EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students). Later she moved back to London along with her mother and two siblings, only to be housed as refugees. This is probably the reason why a lot of her songs carry some strong (often controversial) political undercurrents.
Apart from music, M.I.A has also dabbled in various arts, from painting to films. Her paintings include graffiti art and spray paint canvasses that depicted Tamil street art and London life. These were displayed in her first public exhibition of paintings in 2001, and were also made into a book titled M.I.A. Apart from making short films, she also is a fashion designer, mixing and matching fabrics of bright colours, often fluorescent green. This is also seen in her own style of bright dressing. Her wardrobe includes Mexican and Afrika jackets and leggings and also Islamic hoodies. She often appears in public performances and TV shows dressed up in her own unique style. Apart from that she has become a proud momma recently!
M.I.A released her first album Arular (named after her father) in 2005. Two singles from Arular - Galang and Sunshowers made immediate impact. Sunshowers ran into a controversy when M.I.A refused to remove a line – “you wanna go? you wanna winna war? Like PLO, I don’t surrendo“ - which ultimately led to it being banned for airplay. The video of Sunshowers (a beautiful jungle kind of video) can be watched on youtube here and Galang (featuring multiple M.I.As – woohoo!), here (The videos are beautiful. Enjoy!). Her second album titled Kala (after her mother) followed in 2007. The song Paper Planes featured on the soundtrack of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The first single Boyz has some groovy Tamil street music and some eye-popping Jamaican dancing. To watch the video, click here.
I agree with M.I.A when, in Sunshowers, she says “Can’t stereotype my thing yo“, because you just cannot classify her music under a particular genre. If there is anyone who can sing a song titled Bird Flu and also make you like it, it is M.I.A! Definitely watch the video. It is the best, featuring quite a lot of India (or Sri Lanka?). The children dancing and shouting along with M.I.A makes for good viewing and listening (I just have no words to describe this song!). It is a colourful and energetic video. Plus, notice the music, typical Indian street music!
M.I.A is a rapper with a difference. She has won and been nominated for a number of awards, the most recent one being the Grammy, 2009, for Paper Planes (Record of the Year) and Swagga Like Us (Best Rap Song). Unlike other rappers, she does not sing of gangsters, drugs, sex and murders. Rather her songs are artistically done, focussing on little known genres of music such as folk, jungle, tribal, etc. Anyway, Slumdog Millionaire has finally got her the attention that she desrves. To know more about M.I.A, you can visit her Myspace page here (Caution: Before clicking put your sunglasses on! you will know why I say that when you click!)
While you enjoy the videos I will regret the fact that I did not know of her before. I mean I got to know of her after two albums! Sheesh!
PS: Do watch Bird Flu if you have not! In fact watch all of the videos!