"To Congo, To Colombo, can't stereotype my thing yo:" M.I.A.'s Politics of Difference
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Comparative Studies Honors Theses; 2008
The relationship between popular music and politics is a confusing one. Since the 1970s theorists have studied the ways in which youth employ popular music to make statements about their lives and economic situation. In this paper, I examine how one new and exciting artist demands political attention beyond class, and indeed receives it both from a dedicated audience and media. Maya Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A., has a history ripe with politics, perseverance, and creativity. Spending most of her childhood in war torn Sri Lanka (where her estranged father was fighting with the Tamil Tigers) Maya arrived in London as a third world refugee. After an art school education, she shifted from making videos and graphic art to making music, which she continues to do today. Her distinct identity, style, and music illuminate issues of gender, the third world, and popular music. Additionally, these three facets of her persona reflect the importance authenticity, challenge the globalized popular music market, and demonstrate how music strives to be political. For now her music appears to be in a genre all its own, packaging inherent politics in the form of pleasurable dance music. However, it will be curious to see if M.I.A.'s imagined "third world democracy" will follow in her footsteps, or if she will always remain in a category all her own.
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