Sunday Treat – Hip-Hop Star M.I.A. – “The Songbird of ‘Slumdog'”


The Jan. 30, 2009 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal highlights the artistry of Mathangi Arulpragasam, who goes by the moniker M.I.A.

“O Saya,” her collaboration with Indian composer A.R. Rahman from the “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack, is one of three nominees for the best-song Oscar. And her track “Paper Planes” is in contention at this year’s Grammy Awards for record of the year — the Recording Academy’s top honor.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “born in Britain, the future singer returned with her family to her parents’ native Sri Lanka when she was 6 months old. The family, who are members of Sri Lanka’s ethnic-Tamil minority, moved to Jaffna, in the island nation’s north. Not long afterward, the country erupted into civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government, and violence consumed Jaffna. … At age 10 she fled with her mother, elder sister and younger brother first to India and then back to London….”

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, is a militant Tamil nationalist organization that has waged a violent secessionist campaign against the Sri Lankan government since the 1970s. Their stated goal is the creation of a sovereign socialist Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon). The LTTE is currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries.

In the LTTE, recruits are instructed to be prepared to die for the cause, and are issued with a cyanide capsule to be swallowed in the case of capture. The LTTE also has a special squad of suicide bombers, called the Black Tigers, which it deploys for critical missions. The group is known as the “pioneer” of many of the suicide bombing techniques now used by terrorists.

Ms. Arulpragasam says her harrowing life has informed both the lyrics and sound of her songs. In her interview with the Wall Street Journal, she explains, “… for me nominations are not like a musical thing. It’s more like me having a platform. The point of success is being able to tell a wider audience about the situation in Sri Lanka.”

You can read the entire profile here.

You can watch her video of “Paper Planes” here, although chances are you have already seen it, since it has been viewed over 45 million times!


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