Military chic

Guerrillas in her midst: Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam, a.k.a. M.I.A., is a 26-year-old British Asian DJ who raps in the garage/grime genre (via Tablatronic and our own Sajit). For song material, she mines her family’s flight from the Sri Lankan civil war.

The new arrivals were not exactly welcomed with open arms by London’s Sri Lankan community… “They are really obsessed with impressing the British. They want to be doctors and engineers and go to Cambridge, buy leather couches to match their encyclopedias, have a sitar in the corner and whip their saris out once a year for a wedding. They’d look at us and go, ‘We don’t want them hanging round with our kids, they’re into rap, they think they’re black.’… I’ll go to LA and be black: it’s better than being in Britain and being brown.’

Check out the video for ‘Sunshowers,’ a bouncy track which makes frequent and incongruous reference to guns, bombs and the guerrillas of Colombo.

Update: Nirali magazine has a great profile of Arulpragasam:

She never knew her father, one of the founding members of Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a militant guerrilla group formed in 1976 with the goal of gaining political independence for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil population. “We saw him once a year, for 10 minutes at a time. My mum said, ‘That’s your uncle–your dad is dead.’ It was to protect us,” she explains… “We lived in hiding for so long. We were just moving from village to village and from house to house. Nobody wanted to put us up; we were untouchable. Everybody knew about us in Sri Lanka, and nobody wanted to deal with us because we brought so much heat. The army would follow [us wherever we'd go]. We were living in big-time poverty, stealing mangoes off someone else’s tree,” she remembers.

Update: M.I.A. just spun in New York (photos) and landed on the cover of Fader magazine. Here’s the layout.

6 thoughts on “Military chic

  1. she a DJ too ? wow. i’ve been wondering where to find her stuff in the US for about 2 weeks or so. sorry i didn’t tip you off earlier :)

    ‘galang’ is my favorite of hers so far. kinda dancehall, and i like that sort of thing.

    hope you get to see her in NY. tablatronic.net makes me want to leave Dallas forever and move to either coast; I don’t care much which one.

  2. One thing that I really like about the two music videos I have seen of hers: She is dressed modestly! I’m sure this may have to do with the fact that Sri Lankan culture (Although she lives in the UK) is more conservative than American culture. However, Its a breath of fresh air! Her music and manor is real, not like other women I won’t mention. I hope she keeps it real, and doesn’t go the other route for $$$. She makes a great example to girls and young women that you don’t have to be “plastic” to be cool.

  3. way late for this conversation but i must say anyways that M.I.A. is AMAZING!!! her music actually says something to the masses, reminding us that there is senseless violence going on all over the world while first world countries are too busy with the obesity epidemic and video games and songs like “my humps” to actually stand up and do anything! always a favorite, i hope she never stops!!!!