FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
The people M.|.A. doesn‘t know in the cultural world probably aren‘t worth knowing. Here‘s proof that all roads run to M.|.A. aka Maya
narnechecking the Tigers and the Palestine Liberation Army. had the American authorities worried l‘l got the bombs to blow you up.’ she chanted on Aru/ur‘s big floor filler. 'I’ull [p The People‘) is unclear. and obviously things have been sorted otrt now. but at the time she was labelled as undesirable atrd sent back to the UK.
'When I was denied the visa. I ended up just couch—surfing. sleeping at other people‘s houses. I couldn‘t access any of my equipment or tny demos it was already over in America. with the rest of trry life so I had to start frortt scratch with what was around me. The thing is. I get bored easily. and I don‘t see the point of doing something twice. I made Arulur in London; I‘d already made a real London album. I jtrst thought. fuck it. If I'm gonna couch-surf in London. I might as well go and couch surf in India or Liberia.‘
She jttst kept travelling'.’ 'Yeahl And at the same time. I wanted to get out of people‘s view: to go and spend time learning about myself and trying to be better. Not really technically better. but I just wanted to be better as a human being. And it's really hard to do that when you make club music. 'I‘here‘s no such thing as a better human being in club music! It‘s like. you either . or you get the fuck out? And I don‘t want to he talking about ‘big titties” and fucking hos'. Dance music needs to he expanded. in terms of subject matter and substance. and that‘s what I was trying to do.‘
Arottnd the same time. her relationship with [S D] I)iplo taka Wesley Pent/l began to fail. She's been trotor'iously unwilling to disctrss it in interviews. so it came as a surprise when she brought it up of her own accord.
'I was totally in love with Wes. and we split tip. beeatrse he felt he couldn't he with someone who makes music. It was really difficult: suddenly I was in this situation where. you know. you either have to give it up and have kids — we'd probably live on a trailer park or something -- or carry on being a musician. whatever that‘s supposed to do. whatever this thing is that I‘ve started. I felt really under pressure to either make an album or do the staying in. and you know. I was in love. And in so many ways I saw these parallels with the situation my mum had been in 20 years before. as a single parent and a refugee. Just trying to survive.‘
Kala was named for her mother. Was it at this period that she decided to do that‘.’ ‘Yeah. this is it. My mum. she couldn't really give me advice. She had an arranged marriage that didn't really work. so she didn't have any opinions on that
dance . .
14 THE LIST 29 Nov—13 Dec 2007
side of it. When it comes to work. sltc's jttsl happy with whatever the achiey errrent is.
‘So when I started this alhttrn. I really thought. "I don’t know why I‘m doing this. I don't know who I'm doing it for. I don't know anything. I‘m out of this relationship. 'I‘imhaland. that dream and hope. is not gonna happen. and I probably don‘t even wanna make music." I was exhausted. and then this album just catne out from that weird place. I just didn‘t care what anyone was going to think. And it just ended tip being what it is because it came out from a time of just trying to survive. in music. as a woman.‘
All of these things went into ls'u/u. and it shows. Where Aru/ur was direct and confronted world issues head-on and noisily. ly'u/u's politics are fuuier. less tangible. The opening track. ‘Bamboo Banger". comes from the point of view of a small child chasing a Western tourist's car down a dust road: further collahorations come from the Wilcanna Mob. a pre-pulx‘scant troupe of Aboriginal rappers. and Afrikan Boy. a teenage Liberian refugee.
‘Well. yeah.‘ MIA. says. as though these were utterly obvious choices. ‘When I started making Ara/(1r. hack in 2002-2004. there was just politics. Most people of our age. living in the West. were in the middle of the biggest saturated political moment of their lives. But now. well. we've seen where it goes. Iiveryone is out there talking about it. We‘ve all watched Saddam Hussein being hanged on You'l'uhe. What the hell have I got to add to that‘.’ .lust trying to survivef she repeats. "I‘hat's what it‘s about. I wanted to speak for everyday people. living their everyday Iives.’
Because lx'ulu eschews any single ideology. style. fonn or even culture. listening to it can be as dizzying and confusing as inhaling the flashing day-glo graphics on her self-designed website. But then. the contradictions are typical: MIA. is a hard woman to pin down. She grew up in refugee camps and on London council estates listening to bashment and dancehall music; she‘s also an Alternative Turner I’ri/e- nominee who shared a flat with the slightly Sloaney designer Luella Bartley' while they studied art at St Martin‘s College. and who got her big break in music under .Iustine Frischmann‘s privileged wing. Nothing seems to stick to her. although almost certainly not through arty conscious deviousness on her part. Maya Arulpragasam is the sort of person who generates rumours around her head without apparently meaning to. The internet places her age at anywhere between 25 and 32 (most sources say she's 30): casts doubt on the degree
desrgned the cover of the sleeve for The Menace. the disastrous second album by . . .
Who traversed America with Maya in tow documenting their tour. The support on that tour
Who introduced Maya to the Roland MC-505 Groovebox. a sequencer and keyboard also beloved by James Murphy of . . .
Who invited M.|.A. out on tour across America with him and his band in 2005. The tour was witnessed by . . .
The director wanted to collaborate with Maya on a film. She didn't do it but made one about London rapper Afrikan Boy. The film featured . . .
Who was nominated for an Oscar for Being John Malkovich. Fellow Oscar nominee . . .
Was an early champion of Maya's art. which was nominated for the Alternative Turner Prize. When it comes to her music however. . .
Is a ferverent supporter of Maya. Her single ‘Boyz' debuted on his Radio 1 show. Radio 1 also championed ‘Bad Man' by. . .
Which guest-starred Maya. Missy is often credited with popularising the sampling of Indian music in mainstream hip hop. Like . . .
Who did the same for British indie pop on ‘Brimful of Asha'. Which paid tribute to Bollywood movie star . . .
Who inspired hundreds of movies like Disco Dancer, which has the song ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja‘ covered as 'Jimmy' by. . .
A true woman for all seasons be it music. movies, design or political polemic. she can turn her hand to them all.
to which she is estranged from her revolutionary father. and is ahu// with speculation about exactly why she was refused entry to America. But it's from and about this mess of contradictions that she makes her art. \Iaya .-\mlpragasam is the sort of person who can tell four different. possibly conflicting. stories about the genesis of her album. and have them all be true.
M.|.A. plays the Arches, Glasgow, Wed 12 Dec. www.miauk.com