Sunday, July 11, 2004

Maya Arulpragasam: The Next Big Thing?

The Times (UK) have written a well-done piece about up-and-coming desi MC, Maya Arulpragasm and her band MIA, which recently had their first mainstream single released by British heavyweight label XL (home to none other than Dizzy Rascal and The White Stripes).

From the Article:

Her sound is an explosive mix of bhangra, ragga, electro and hip-hop. But underneath her street style, the singer-songwriter behind MIA is a political animal

She has had more opportunities than most to have her eyes opened to the meaning of life, but for Maya Arulpragasam, the tipping point was surprisingly mundane. At the age of 10, the London-based MC was forced to flee her native Sri Lanka, where her father, a Tamil freedom fighter, remains to this day. Arriving in Britain, she and her mother and two siblings were housed on a notoriously racist council estate in Surrey. At school, the newcomer was dismissed as thick because she couldn’t speak English and labelled the Thing because her surname was too long.

The new arrivals were not exactly welcomed with open arms by London’s Sri Lankan community. “They used to say, ‘Your kids are not in private school, your husband’s chosen not to be with you,’” Arulpragasam scoffs. “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.’” Which is precisely what Arulpragasam wanted to be when she went to stay with a cousin in California, partying with Eddie Murphy and Dr Dre, and very nearly moving there for good. “I thought, ‘F*** it, I don’t want to make art films that screen at the ICA to 30 people. I’ll go to LA and be black: it’s better than being in Britain and being brown.’”

Luckily, she didn't jump ship, and her debut single, last year’s white- label Galang, made a lot of ears prick up. Within weeks, the track’s exhilaratingly dirty mix of hard beats, street slang and distorted vocals unleashed the ubiquitous bidding war. XL, home to Dizzee Rascal and the White Stripes, won the day, and MIA was soon working with the likes of Richard X on her first album, which will be released this autumn. Her single, sunshowers released on the fifth of July. Check it, her website, and the article out. They are brilliant.


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