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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Kala

    It seems like the music scene was in need of something different. Something wildly unexpected and a breaker of convention. We may have that with Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam, otherwise known as M.I.A. of Sri Lankan Tamil heritage and raised in the United Kingdom, has gained recognition in the underground and mainstream for her ‘unique’-doesn’t-cover-it style, infusing elements of American hip-hop, British grime, and world music to make something very original.

    M.I.A.’ released her debut album, ‘Arular,’ named after her militant father, in 2005 to worldwide critical acclaim. Two years later, she releases ‘Kala,’ this time named after her mother, as a continuation of her story and a spreading of her wings stylistically. Already the album has received great buzz since its August release. Fans should be pleased. Others may not have the time.

    M.I.A. is somehow still a new artist even after her debut. Not for lack of exposure, seeing as her first single ‘Galang’ has already graced Honda commercials.

    ‘New,’ in this case, implies different, and the listener, should he or she sit down and take this album in, should know that. Everything ‘Kala’ is and everything M.I.A. offers is so new and against the grain, the listener will have to want to listen to it to appreciate it.

    Unlike her previous effort, which featured a good number of producers, including Justine Frischmann of Elastica, this sophomore effort is largely Maya in the lab, with underground DJ Switch accompanying her.

    She opens with ‘Bamboo Banga,’ a bass-heavy track laden with speeding cars and Tamil chanting. She opens with’ it to prepare the listener for the fever dream that is the rest of the album, because by four minutes and 58 seconds they’ll be dancing.

    The tracks that follow, ‘Bird Flu’ and ‘Boyz,’ are M.I.A. at her most unique and perhaps most jarring. The former is a bright and chaotic collage of stripped down hip-hop and tribal music, full of children calling out and chickens cawing. The latter is a club single that hearkens images from festival time with the cheering crowd looped in over the whistles and drumbeat.

    Never afraid of making political statements, Arulpragasam continues by peppering social commentary into the already dissonant voices of the work.

    The Bollywood-inspired ‘Jimmy’ mentions the genocide in Darfur, albeit randomly and without service to the song itself other than to set it in the present. ‘Hussel’ features the Nigerian MC Afrikan Boy and criticizes money’s importance in today’s society.

    Finally, M.I.A. makes clear her intention to be a representative for the world (as arriviste as that may be) with songs like ‘World Town,’ which showcases her willingness break boundaries ‘down to the floor’ and bring peoples of diverse backgrounds and musical sensibilities together. ‘Come Around’ closes the album and features Timbaland at his best incorporating his style seamlessly into the mix.

    The daughter of a seamstress and a radical, M.I.A. doesn’t hold back in blending a whole world of concepts into her music. If only everyone could listen; all the influences and eras she makes use of clamor and clash in the same room, making what sounds like a lot of noise on first listen.

    An acquired taste, she should and is lauded for being so unabashedly different, but if one is not ready for the message, one won’t want to hear it.

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