Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

M.I.A. spends the day with Spike Jonze

This video is just–to steal one of the adjectives one of my students loves–phenomenal.

The musician M.I.A. as interviewed by Spike Jonze, filmed back in 2007, before the release of her phenomenal hybrid of hip-hop, Sri Lankan instrumentals, and anti-imperalist lyrics: Kala. This mini-documentary for Vice TV is every bit as entertaining as M.I.A.’s album.

We learn the album itself, Kala, is Maya’s ode to her mum. And the themes? A response to the negative messages in current hip-hop music, or as Maya summarizes, a direct antidote to popular music’s emphasis on degrading images of women (her comments are more direct). Instead of the bling bling and objectification of women, she wonders how to send her listeners empowering lyrics. “How do you feed them nourishment?”

I was also impressed with Maya’s thoughtful analysis of the West’s stereotypical imagery of African children and African music. It’s not simply the image of a forlorn African child with a flute-type instrument under a tree in the setting African sun. Here, she introduces us to her collaborator on Kala, Afrikan Boy, an 18 year-old musician from Nigeria whose driving beats subvert our received perceptions of all African music as acapella spirituals in the vein of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

M.I.A and Afrikan Boy’s music is hard-driving, anti-establishment, and fueled by an insane energy for life. Below, the music video for “Paper Airplanes” just because:

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Filed under: music, pop culture, , , ,

One Response

  1. […] launched her career in 2003. It’s obvious from the video how talented M.I.A. was, and how her artistry transcends music to include fashion and politics. No matter what the NYT reports, M.I.A. is in a league of her […]

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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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