The music of MIA is filled with the heavy beat of rebellion. Informed by the aesthetics of Bali funk, Dancehall groove and UK garage, the crunchy sound created by the beautiful and enigmatic Maya Arulpragasm will make you move your ass as it swoops down from the sun to lay an all-out assault on your ears. MIA’s first full-length album, Arular, was lauded across the internet long before its release, and buzz has been increasing as more and more people are exposed to its unique and moving sound.
Considering that electronic music has a tendency to sound as if it has been produced by the sonic equivalent of a cookie cutter, MIA has gone beyond convention, combining her influences to create something new in the world of beat-driven music.
Born in London, Arulpragasm moved with her family to Sri Lanka when she was an infant. Later she would spend time in India before returning to Sri Lanka only to experience a civil war that had a devastating affect on her family and friends. It was only after she returned to London, where she worked as a visual artist, that she began to find an identity in music. During a photography project, she met the electronic Uber-femme, Pink, who introduced her to the Roland-505, an electronic drum machine and sampler that would become her main tool.
Arular, built on the foundation of the Roland-505’s unique beats, is immediately compelling from the first track. Despite its heavily distorted deep bass, each track has an improbable bounce that serves to give the music a certain lift and spaciousness. That bounce works well with MIA’s stern but girlish voice. Though she sings about revolution and the politics of displacement, her songs manage to keep a strong party groove, making Arular a perfect soundtrack for the coming heat and sweat of summer.
Perhaps the most amazing track on the album is “Bucky Done Gun.” Reminiscent of early rap anthems like Afrika Bambatta’s “Planet Rock,” “Bucky Done Gun” is a ghetto booty anthem. Its dance floor grind is guaranteed to make you move your butt.
When listening to Arular, it’s clear that the world of electronic music will have to step up to the challenge of this new and amazing sound. After years of cut-and-paste club burners from mainstream rap artists and electronic musicians, MIA’s work is sure to cause any listener to wonder what the hell they’ve been doing wasting their time with the pedestrian beats pumped out, ad nauseum, from the world of mainstream music.
MIA’s Arular deserves a place in your CD player, iPod or car stereo for the summer simply because Arulpragasm’s music will make everything you do feel that much more fun and, well, cool. In fact, a drive to the grocery store accompanied by Arular’s incomparable beats will make the journey seem more like an adventure than a mundane chore.
Friends, the rebellion has come. If the forces of mainstream music do not change their ways then the burned out husks of recording studios will be the only thing left to tell the tale of what came before, and the people left dancing in the ruins will be far too happy to give a damn.