Self-aware global-feminist-gangster-rapper MIA will be playing the Showbox Sodo on November 16th, supporting her new album Kala.
The story of MIA, born Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, begins in the Tamil region of Sri Lanka, where her parents where involved in the movement for the region to become autonomous. Her parents were intellectuals and her father became the founder of the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students, which later became a militant Tamil organization.
Maya was actually born in London but moved back to Sri Lanka after six months. As the civil war escalated, the family was forced to flee to India and then back to London by the time Maya was in her early teens.
In London, MIA (missing in action or missing in Acton - an London prefecture) was exposed to the under group pop music of the 80s: rap and hip-hop.
She attended art school in London for fine art, film and video. Her art education would lead to artistic collaborations with visual artist and fashion designed du jour, Cassette Playa of New Rave/Klazons style fame.
MIA only became a recording artist after working with Elastica on cover art and meeting electro-clash sex-goddess Peaches, who introduced Maya to low-budget electronic music production.
Recording a mix tape, MIA got the attention of underground dance and world music critics during 2003 and signed to XL Records in 2004. Since then she has released three records and toured the world.
The new record, Kala, was actually named after MIA's mother, like the last record, Arular, named after her father.
MIAs music is proto-hip-hop, meaning depicts street culture before concrete was invented. MIA's speaks to the whole world as one huge ghetto: hustle or be hustled.
Her songs are fun, fresh, political and danceable. On Kala She raps about everything from buying AK-47 machine guns in Africa to Bird Flu. Grime, dancehall, and electro-pop combine in a weird artistic space of political clarity and musical joy.
The videos and photos on MIA's official website are amazing, many of them shot on location in Kingston Jamaica and Sri Lanka.
After listening to Kala a few times I hope slum-core democracy beats and ghetto-fly techno-jungle-rap catch on everywhere.